August - when almost everything closes down! August - the silly season! Whatever can I write that is appropriate for August?
Actually - there's a fair bit! Here's five short paragraphs:
1. The month of August is named after the Emperor Augustus (31 BC - 14 AD). We read of Augustus in Luke's account of the Nativity story (chapter 2) when he issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This led to Jesus being born in Bethlehem. Behind this very familiar story is an amazing truth - that God actually came to live among us as a human being - 'The Word' was truly made flesh for us (John 1:14). Just meditate on this a moment - this will surely lead to our being 'lost in wonder, love and praise' - to quote Charles Wesley!
2. If someone were compiling a cryptic crossword with the word 'August' as an answer, one way to clue the word would be to split it into its two component parts of AU and GUST. 'Au' is the chemical symbol for Gold, and a 'gust' is of course a 'rushing mighty wind'. So we have in the same word not only the Christian's final destination, but the means God uses to get us there! In the vivid, poetic language of the Book of Revelation, the New Jerusalem is the 'City of Gold' (chapter 21 verse 18) and it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, who came as a rushing wind at Pentecost, who leads us to believe in and to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour, the one who lived, died and rose again for us, and in whom we experience new birth and discover eternal life.
3. August is the holiday season - and the word 'holiday' comes from the words 'holy day'. For the Christian, every day is holy, every day is special, every day is set apart for God. We all need to rest and relax, to take 'time out', and God is present with us as much at these times as he is on our 'working' days. Likewise, we are obliged to live for God, to glorify him by revealing his nature to those around us, as much in the holiday season as in any other.
4. From August 1st onwards, there are 153 days left to the end of the year! In John's account of Peter's restoration to ministry after his threefold denial (chapter 21 verse 11) the net being dragged ashore contains 153 fish. It is therefore a number which symbolises evangelism and bringing people to a living faith in Jesus Christ (Jesus had previously told his disciples at their call they would henceforth be 'fishing for people'). This is a reminder to the Church - in season and out of season - that one of the main callings we have from God is to grow and multiply, to 'make disciples of all nations' (Matthew 28). This is incumbent upon every believer, and not just a handful of church leaders!
5. A personal note! August 1 is Yorkshire Day, and both my wife Anne and I were born in Yorkshire and come from Yorkshire families (OK - my Dad was Cornish!). Yorkshire is often referred to as 'God's Own County' - although to be Biblically accurate, since 'the earth is the Lord's'(Psalm 24) every county is God's own! We are summoned in the older translations of Isaiah 51 verse 1 to 'remember the rock from whence we were hewn' - and although looking back is not always the best thing to do (it didn't do Lot's wife much good, and it can often reignite feelings of guilt and regret) it is good to look back and give thanks for all that others have done for us, and especially what God has done for us - how he has forgiven our sins, given us new life, set his hand upon us, shown his personal love for us, given us assurance of never-ending life in his presence.
Enjoy August! Happy Holy Days!