It’s one of Lent’s traditions. To give up something. To fast from something. Whether it be from technology, a particular food or drink. We can deprive ourselves of some small pleasure or indulgence and offer that sacrifice up to God. Alternatively we might “give up” a bad habit as a demonstration of moving closer to God.
Whatever we’ve decided to do without, space is created. Maybe just a sliver, a margin, but space all the same. As we reach for that coffee cup and remember we’re going without, there’s a moment, a breath, an opportunity to centre our hearts on God. Space in a busy day to engage with Jesus.
It’s our opportunity to prepare our hearts for Easter and the revelation of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for us. It’s an invitation to make space for Jesus to come into our lives even more.
“All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by” (John Masefield)
I’ve borrowed this quote from my brother. It’s from one of his favourite poems. And as I stand here with a new year ahead of us it seems rather apt. That and the fact I work in Shipping I guess.
This celestial navigation that sailors used in days gone by has none of the heightened accuracy and detailed information that the technology of GPS provides today. There was a lot in the seas ahead of them that the sailors did not know about. They had to trust the heavens and themselves too while their path held many unknowns.
The year ahead of us is also filled with unknowns and uncharted territories. But we’re not alone, flailing with no star or map to guide us through. We can place our days in the hands of God. We can trust God. We can trust that He’s got everything under control. That He’s working everything for our good.
Seems easy sailing with just a star to guide you. But what if it’s cloudy and you can’t see the Star?
What if your prayers don’t get answered? What if you’re facing a tough time?
What if there are disappointments or hurts hiding in your heart?
God asks us to trust Him. To lean on Him. And we can because He is trustworthy. We can trust God because He loves us. He is good, kind, merciful. He’s got this, He’s got us! We may feel that sometimes we’ve gone off grid and that certainly we’re not following our plan for our lives. But we can still place our trust and hope in God.
“God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.” (1 John 3:20 MSG)
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.