And just like that it’s midnight and we’re ringing in the New Year! 2018 is now here. Around New Zealand and then around the world New year celebrations are in full flight. Fireworks, champagne bottles popping, the tunes of auld Lang syne ring out.
Why the excitement, the hype over a new day? A New Year? When really not much changes in our lives except the date on our calendars?
It’s that promise of a fresh start. The hopes and dreams that stir to say “this year”. The new beginnings, the resolutions that hold potential.
It is what my six year old calls “Happy New Year Day”
That though is the promise of God for us! Hope and faith that the best is yet to come. A fresh start. Healing. Forgiveness. Strength. Grace. There for us each day. No matter what we face He is there.
Happy New Year!
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
The Christmas tree was taken down today. All the decorations packed away for another year. Pretty glass baubles returned to their cardboard boxes and safely stored. Christmas lights carefully unstrung and taken down.
Symbolic really that as another year draws to a close I was packing up remnants of Christmas.
Whatever 2017 held for you – the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, it is almost over. We can treasure the memories but step forward into a new season. It is time to put 2017 behind us and press on to what God holds for us and calls us to in 2018.
We can begin our New Year with the confidence that whatever 2018 holds, God is already there.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:12-14)
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.”
The themes of Advent. Hope. Peace. Joy. Love. I love that they are the promise and reality of Christmas.
On the first Christmas the birth of Jesus was announced with declarations by the Angels of joy and peace to all of us. His birth was the perfect demonstration of the love of God for us. And after the silence and the waiting, hope was reignited.
This Christmas, what does your heart need? Is your heart weary from standing and holding on, or perhaps weary from a long season of waiting? Let the hope of Christ strengthen and encourage you. Perhaps your year has held turmoil and hardship and you need rest from the storm. God’s peace is here for you.
Joy is to be found too for the heart that has been burdened and weighed down by life and its trials. And for the heart still searching, for the heart maybe hurting, Love is there.
May the blessings of God’s love, the comfort of His joy, and the shelter of His peace warm your heart with glad rejoicing this Christmas season.
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. (Romans 15:13)
Joy at this time should be easy, shouldn’t it? Christmas music is playing, lights and decorations abound and everyone is feeling “Christmassy”. I mean it’s just the most wonderful time of the year…of course until you find yourself shouting at the self checkout machine saying there’s no unexpected item in the baggage area. Or the car you gave way to, takes the last car park at the mall…
Joy can quickly start to evaporate. Or is really joy? Maybe the joy that we celebrate at Christmas has a little more to it than an emotion based on favourable circumstances. In fact, CS Lewis called it “The serious business of Heaven”
Joy is defined as a “triumph, cheerful and a calm delight, a deep feeling of contentment.” Some have described it as “the feeling of grinning inside.” It is something that resides beneath the surface. Joy is not happiness which is a feeling and comes and goes. It is also not based on our circumstances. As someone once said “joy is not in things, it is in us.”
And As Christians we have access to a joy that exists regardless of what our circumstances are like. Jesus said “I have come that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10)
Our breakthrough to Joy comes when we magnify God in our lives, our circumstances. To put the name of Jesus above all. To focus on Him over everything else. When we lift our eyes off our circumstances and onto God, we can find strength for our days and yes joy.
“Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of Jesus.”
It is God who is the source of our joy. Circumstances change – we have good days, we have bad days but God and His love never changes. Choosing joy is being able to see God’s goodness even when life is hard and messy.
Let the joy of the Lord be your strength.
“For the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Sometimes we sorrow,
Other time embrace,
sometimes we question everything
everything we face;
yet in our yearning
is deeper learning;
we belong to God, we belong to God.
(John Bell 1949)
I’m at an ordination, a day of celebration, and we’re all standing in song, singing a hymn. And for me, this verse stands out and I am undone – we belong to God.
Life has its ups and downs. It has its trials, it has valleys. There are indeed times of sorrow. Times when we question and ask why. Yet in all of this and despite our circumstances, we belong to God.
Whatever we are facing, whatever our day looks like, we belong to God.
And He is here for us.
“It will be said on that day, ‘Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’ Ïsaiah 25:9
I recently found myself sitting in a hospital café waiting. Marking time till an appointment was over. The duration of my time in the café was the length of the appointment. But as I sat there in the café sipping my coffee and reading a book I had taken along, I realised that I could change my perspective. Was I waiting? Or having time out? Was this actually a breather in a busy day, a busy week? Was perhaps the waiting good for me?
Advent is about waiting – anticipating the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise that He will come again. As the Christmas countdown hurtles on we have the opportunity in this season to step back from the busyness, the pace and embrace the waiting.
Waiting though in present day society is anything but embraced. We want it all and we want it all now. Waiting is something we avoid where possible. It seems negative or passive.
But Advent celebrates the waiting.
And in the waiting we find peace.
Advent is a Latin word that means “coming.” But Advent is more about a countdown to Christmas. It is about remembering and anticipation.
We remember that God stepped out of eternity and became man. He came to live amongst us. He came to die for our sins and conqueror death. We remember and celebrate not only that Jesus came into this world, but the reason why.
We also anticipate our Lord’s promised return. That Jesus will come again in glory and establish His Kingdom for ever.
Jesus Christ has come and He is coming again!
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9″6)