- January Joy
I am well aware that January in particular can be quite a depressing month and there are a few statistics floating around to confirm that. What with Christmas bills and not enough daylight, this can lead to feeling gloomy. Equally, life could just be a struggle at the moment. Please let me know if you would like the Pastoral Care Team or me to come and visit you because that is what we are here for.
When times are difficult, it can be hard to feel happy, yet I would like to suggest that we can still feel joyful. I wonder if you have ever thought that there might be a difference between happiness and joy? Happiness is more of a fleeting moment while joy is found deep down in our souls. There is a verse in the book of Psalms that says: “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy”.
Many people have sought joy but have not found it. It is… not in
- Unbelief – Voltaire was an unbeliever of the most
pronounced type. He wrote: “I wish I had never been born”.
- Pleasure – Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone
did. He wrote: “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone”.
- Money – Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth”.
- Position and Fame – Benjamin Disraeli enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret”.
- Military Glory – Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent before he said “There are no more worlds to conquer”.
As I spoke about in Great Ness last Sunday, joy is not a once in a lifetime experience but can be never-ending. Married couples’ joy does not end when the wedding day is finished – their love for each other bubbles over into other parts of their lives. So it is with us. There are so many times that God tells us to ‘rejoice’ in the Bible – not just at Christmas time – and, as we begin to take in the enormous reality that we are loved by him and that he is trustworthy, so our joy at knowing it overflows into the rest of our lives.
Do you want to experience more joy? Do call me if you want to talk about it. My prayer is: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
- Unbelief – Voltaire was an unbeliever of the most
- From Remembrance to Christmas
With a brilliant Remembrance Day over – from Packwood choir singing to Great Ness’s rendition of Harold Birch’s letters to the lighting of the Beacon – we can now turn our thoughts to Advent and Christmas.
Christmas seems to get earlier every year. This year, there was Christmas produce in the supermarkets in September but once Halloween was over, the Chocolate Oranges were where the pumpkins had been sitting only 24 hours before. It won’t be long until, ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens finds its way onto every shop playlist. Christmas has truly arrived.
When everything proclaims that Christmas is here already – even in November – it can be easy to miss the beauty of advent. Advent is all about the wait. It’s a season in its own right which begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Many people will have an advent calendar to help them count down the long days towards December 25th. Did you know that the printed version is only a 20th century phenomenon? One December a mother cut a cake into 24 pieces and put them onto a piece of cardboard. Her little boy got to eat one piece each day until Christmas. That little boy grew up to be a printer. He always remembered what his mother had done, and in 1903 he produced the first Advent Calendar. It had 24 small windows. Behind each window was a picture of something he had wished for as a child – mostly toys.
It can help the waiting but nowadays waiting is often seen as a bad thing in our culture. We have microwaves and fast food restaurants so that we can get a meal instantly. We download songs we like via our phones the same minute that we hear them. But in advent, the wait for Christmas is a good thing. It’s not just about looking forward to a big party and lots of presents to increase your excitement. As with Lent, it is a time to prepare the heart. Pressing ‘pause’ on a busy life to marvel again at this historic event that changed the course of the world – the incarnation, when God himself came to earth to help us understand his love for us and teach us how to live in it. As the angel told the shepherds: “Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord”. (Luke 2:11)
I do hope you will be able to join us at one of our Christmas services to hear the wonderful story once again and to sing some of your favourite carols. I leave you, however, with some lines from one of the Advent Carols we will be singing at Great Ness Church on Sunday 2nd December
The tide of time shall never His covenant remove. His name shall stand forever. That name to us is Love.
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