As some of you may know I really, and I do mean REALLY love Christmas and like Wizzard “wish it could be Christmas every day”, although I must accept that my wallet and waistline are pleased that it isn’t.
As I write this, I am aware that we are receiving news about a new COVID variant and that it is almost impossible to say for certain what life will be like by Christmas let alone into the New Year, yet we are all hoping that some ‘normal’ festivities will remain possible, enabling us once more to enjoy all that Christmas means to us, as family and friends and as churches, in ways that were not permitted so last year. Throughout this edition there are many stories, messages, recipes and invitations to events that I pray will help you look forward to celebrating Christmas, and it is my hope to see many of you at them in the coming weeks.
The Connexional theme for Methodist’s this Advent and Christmas is entitled ‘Great joy for all the people’ so my monthly musing is this: Where might we bring joy to the people we meet during this Christmas?
Of course, you would except me to say that in our churches joy is always to be found, and yes that it true, but I would be foolish, and a liar if I said that as Christians, we never experience sadness, or worries, or face fearful situations or that we should simply rise above the issues of the world. As Christians, I think it is helpful to distinguish that Joy differs from happiness, in that it is not a feeling, but rather a state of being. Like Mary, who in saying YES to God recognised that life wasn’t always going to be easy, we each find ourselves holding to a joy with all its hope for the future, whilst also holding to a joy with its apprehensions for the present – our pains, our fears and our worries about how does life go back to being the same after this illness/job loss/or traumatic event, knowing that while we may not feel joyful, we can in God find the promises that help our heart and spirit rejoice. Our daily Text a Prayer, Friday coffee mornings, Bible Study groups, Meet and Make Midweek all continue to be some of the many ways in which we offer joy to those in moments of great need.
But what of those who live in our communities and may never come into our buildings? I find It interesting to note that those who first heard the angles message of Good News were actually at work, tending their flock during the night watch. Imagine their joy, (and bewilderment) for these are the ones that society so often saw as the nobodies, the dirty, the forgotten and outcast. Yet here on a hillside an angel speaks to them and then a whole choir arrives announcing God’s glory. How might we each enact words of joy amongst the ones who are overlooked or unseen here in the Nene Valley? How might God’s message be spoken to us, and through us today? I would suggest that for some it is in knowing the joy that someone was able to receive a warm meal via the Daylight Centre, or the joy of seeing a family receive a full cupboard of shopping with thanks to the donations of both time and tins at the Food Bank. Or how about the joy of hearing that a group meets at Wellingborough Methodist Church on a Friday night to offer support and help for those who struggle with addictions?
In all these places and spaces (and the list is to long for this musing), we are tasked to be those who not only announce Good News, but to also work towards news so good that changes the landscape in our world for we still live in a time where the wilderness and dry land cry out for transformation, where people live under oppressive political or corporate systems, where the darkness places upon them the yoke of racism, sexism, and inequality. Our Advent expectations remind us that we have a responsibility, that waiting does not mean doing nothing. Our joy in God sustains us in the knowledge that whilst we still face empires today (be it big or small) God’s Kingdom has already “come” even if it is not yet fully “here.” When Herod hears of what was happened in Bethlehem his joy is lost, for no longer can he claim to be king, for the true King has arrived to rule with truth and grace, and that reign increases with each act of justice, dignity and solidarity that we claim in God’s name of righteousness.
So may we all, as we journey towards Christmas, seek out those opportunities in which we can bring joy to others. Be that within our family or friends, within our local neighbourhood or even with the global economy as we shop for the gifts and festive food that we seek to share during this season, and let us celebrate how the wonders of God’s love to us and to all people brings JOY TO THE WORLD!
With blessings to you all