October 2011

Nathanael flashed his lights . The car in the inner lane was pulling up fast behind a lorry, and indicated he was pulling out, edging towards the overtaking line.Nathanael flashed his lights to indicate that he had seen the driver and was holding back to let him in.The driver pulled in, and drew closer to the slower lorry, indicating all the while that he wanted to pull out, so Nathanael flashed his lights again to let him out.Again the car pulled into the inner lane, still indicating and fast approaching the rear of the lorry.Nathanael flashed his lights again as he could see that the car needed to pull out.Suddenly, the car pulled out into the overtaking lane, and to Nathanael’s surprise, flashed all his lights in what was clearly irritation, pulling away from Nathanael at speed.Nathanael had been the model of British courtesy, indicating as we all do that he was willing to give way and yield his right of way to help the needy motorist.Unfortunately, this was not Britain but France, where flashing your lights might well be translated as “Mind out, I’m coming through and exercising my right of way!”Each time Nathanael tried to say, “There you go, take the right of way.” he was in fact saying “Pull back and give way – I’m coming through!”

You probably realised that France speaks a different language but it may come as some surprise that even non-verbal communication needs translating as there is a significant possibility that a simple action in one culture may have a very different meaning in another, even that an apparently harmless sign may be actually quite rude.For example, in Britain, if you’re invited to dinner, taking a bottle of wine is a pleasant way to say thankyou, and you don’t normally expect the bottle to be opened.In France, if you take a bottle of wine, you are making a statement about your superior taste in wine, and convention demands that the bottle be used, even though your host has a bottle opened and aired ready for you . It’s a quick way to lose a friend!

Communication requires both parties to use the same language, for the transmitted message to be read in the same way by the receiver as the transmitter intended.God used a number of means of communication to His people; we’re in that time of year when two especially come to mind.On October 9th we celebrate(d) the Harvest Festival, a celebration which reminds us of God’s general providence in creation.God’s abundant providence declares His glory and generosity; we see the beauty all around us, we eat from laden tables, we breathe the oxygen of life without a second thought.Yet we so often mishear what God is saying to us: instead of stewarding the good things given to us, we feel it is our right to use and abuse His creation however we like; we discard piles of food while others hunger; we take for granted what is a gracious gift without giving thanks.

In the light of our ungracious use of His loving gift, God spoke by his prophets, defining this abuse as ‘sin’ which separates us from the loving hand of God; finally God spoke by sending his own Son, Jesus, the focus of our Christmas celebrations.In Jesus, God not only told us how to live as His loved creation, how to enjoy the meaning and purpose God is pleased to invest in our lives, but also to give us the route back to this full mutual relationship.Jesus lived and taught the life God wants to be ours, and then gave himself in a sacrificial death so that, no longer separated by the gulf of sin, we may be fully restored to life with God.“In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” (The Bible, Hebrews 1.1-2)

In Jesus, God came into our very nature, community and culture.He spoke the same language, lived the same life, felt the same fears and temptations, endured the same deprivations.God in Christ is the ultimate communication, with the communicator taking every step to ensure his communication is heard and understood.What more can he do?Through creation and redemption in Christ, God speaks His words of love; if you cannot hear His gentle call, if you cannot understand His small still voice, if you misunderstand His clarion call, pause and consider and ask yourself, ‘Who is at fault?’God has not stopped speaking, and he speaks today – give Him the time so that you can listen, hear, understand.In His constant melody, he speaks with the harmony of creation and redemption in Christ Jesus, a song He calls you to join, a song of eternity, a chorus of peace and purpose.

Praying that you may pause to listen, hear and understand the voice of God in his creation and His only Son Jesus Christ, and in hearing, you may receive, and in receiving you may believe, and so know his peace and purpose in your life .

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ, Simon Cox.