I think all of us will be grateful for this calendar year to finish. I remember saying at the beginning of the year that I was going to try to avoid the trite expression “2020 Vision” when thinking about this year… who would have known that the vision for this year would have been so bleak.
But before we say goodbye to 2020 and add “don’t let the door hit you on the backside on the way out”, I wonder if we might allow this Christmas season to help us reflect, learn and reposition ourselves.
I suspect that most of us are all too eager to put bad or negative experiences behind us as we race to find something more positive. In our pursuit of happiness I wonder if we risk the miracle of God forming us through the challenges we experience.
The Christmas story has been sanitised so much over the years that it is easy to miss the struggle within, the grit and the grim of a birth in a place where they keep animals, the pain and discomfort of a long journey by donkey, the order for compliance by a government telling people where they should be and what they should do (we can’t relate to that at all this year can we?), the rejection when they arrived, the shame they would have endured because of the rumours and innuendo surrounding the pregnancy and that’s just part of the story…
But when the moment came you can’t miss the rejoicing can you? And perhaps that’s why we tend to overlook the struggle, because this is such a timeless story of joy and excitement.
It strikes me that it is through our struggles and in the way that God’s steadfast love sustains us, through the way the Holy Spirit holds and equips us, that we are able to grow, be formed, sustained and nurtured. Rather than complaining and moving on, can we perhaps consider this instead, reflecting and then rejoicing.
I rejoice this year in the amazingly gifted and talented staff I work alongside, I rejoice in in the countless hours they’ve spent doing things they never thought they’d do only to reveal a level of creativity and insight that we could never have imagined. I rejoice in the generosity and faithfulness of those who serve this church, in their encouragement and in their example. I rejoice in the opportunities we’ve had to share the love of Christ more widely than we could have imagined. I rejoice in the awareness that although this has been the longest and hardest year for many of us, that God has called us, and God is leading us, refined by fire, formed by struggle into a people who God will continue to use to share hope, peace, love and joy.
I pray you will be able to rejoice this Christmas. I pray you will gather in our church building and in your homes and in other church buildings to rejoice as loud as you can. God IS with us and we will rejoice.
Have a happy and holy Christmas!