Overload- one thing too many!

Christmas is coming.

My goodness, I can’t believe that Christmas seems so close! Decorations are up in house windows, shops and streets. The lights are symbols of hope in dark days, and in many ways are welcome, however early it seems.

However I think there are mixed feelings for those who mourn, a desire to look forward with hope, alongside an awareness of the strain of missing a loved one, and feeling that no one else understands. You can be making plans, but some one us missing, the landscape feels different everything jarrs, if there is a Christmas card that never arrives, an empty chair, and a deep feeling of loss. Outwardly things might look very similar, but inside the feeling is different. People are often doing their best to help, and you don’t want to hurt their feelings. So you try hard to go through the motions, whilst nursing a broken heart.

We know the comforting bible verses inside out – ‘ God is close to the broken hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ Psalm 34: 18 and sometimes it is ok to stop filling our time with being busy, to pause, to let the hurt bubble up, and to weep. It is honest, and that is often when we feel God the closest, when we tell Him of our pain.

When we try to push the pain down, and don’t acknowledge it, that’s when we go into overload. It means that we overreact to unforeseen frustrations, pressures at work, the unexpected bill, the driver who cuts out in front of us, the ill judged words of a friend. Sometimes it can just be one thing too many which sends us into a tailspin. We are trying so hard, it doesn’t take much to derail us.

If we are hurting this Christmas, for whatever reason, a broken relationship, ill health, disrupted plans, the loss of a loved one, it is ok to take time to be with God and to cry out to him. He notices our every tear, and brings us comfort and grace, reminding us that we are never alone, and that our cries are heard. If we are able to slow down, and talk to God about our sadnesses, He can minister to us, and this is when we find the strength and the peace we need.

Gracious God, You search and You know us, before even a word is on our tongue, You know what is on our hearts. Forgive us for the times we pretend everything is alright, as sometimes we deceive even ourselves. We get so overloaded and so frustrated, short tempered and upset. Lord Jesus, come alongside us, and speak Your Word of truth, the truth that sets us free. Help us to know it is ok to be real with You, and with trusted loved ones. Help us through the power of your holy spirit, to find safe places to lament and to be real, so that we can find that healing and centredness we yearn for. Grant peace to all who are anxious about facing Christmas by themselves, and may they find that Your love will encircle and strengthen them, Amen.

Unexpected angels in our midst, even Gabriel!

A Christmassy Gabriel!

Everyone has their own favourite film at Christmas, from Elf, Love Actually and It’s a wonderful life. There are many films to choose from, and it seems important to enjoy them, especially with the latest locdown restrictions announced today. People are so worried about the virus, disappointed about their plans to see loved ones have now been cancelled, concerned about loved ones unwell or having the virus. We need some escapism, to help us to cope.

It’s a wonderful life, is particularly popular, as it reminds us that when we are questioning what our life is all about, that maybe God has used us to accomplish more than we know. Clarence the angel, is maybe not what we imagine angels to be like, but he appears just at the right time to save a life.

There are so many angelic appearances in the bible, and in the Christmas story, Gabriel the angel speaking to Zechariah in the temple, to Mary in the house, to Joseph in a dream. Angels are described as heavenly messangers, that stand in the very presence of God. They do the bidding of God, answering prayer, intervening in situations, revealing God’s will.

Especially in these days of difficult death statistics, restrictions and isolation, we pray for God to send His angels into this world- to remind the lonely person that they are not alone, to visit the despairing person in a hospital bed or prison cell, to remind that bereaved person or traumatised child that God wants to comfort them.

On the hillside, the angels praised God amongst the shepherds, and brought news of great joy for all people, for a Saviour was born to bring glory to God, and peace on earth. The purity of angels praising God must have been inspirational.

I believe that God still sends divine messengers to this earth, to encourage, to guide the lost, to be with the dying. Sometimes God might choose the most unlikely people to fulfil His purposes, unexpected angels are all around. And this brings us hope.

We know that in the new year, the various vaccines will be rolled out, and that this will make a difference. We know that these restrictions will not last forever. We know that the number of people ill with the virus will gradually lessen. There is much to be hopeful about.

Right now, as we look at the dark nights, and the rain drops rolling down the window pane, it is easy to feel down. May we know that God has not deserted His people, and that the angels still sing. May we notice the angels in our midst, the prayers said, the acts of kindness around, and may this strengthen us, and remind us that there are better days to come.

May we pray. Eternal Father, news of a new more spreadable variant of the virus, is hard to hear, and the new restrictions have curtailed so many plans to meet up at Christmas. Help us to remember that the first Christmas was tough too, a long journey, a birth of a child in less than ideal circumstances. Yet God provided for the holy family, and He provides for us today. Holy spirit, help us notice the angels in our midst, the heavenly singing, the prayer, the acts of kindness. And may we find peace, trusting in You, Amen 🙏

Coming home at Christmas?

This is a photo of our wonderful dog Gabriel welcoming me home. Yes, he is in fact standing on the dining room table. Yes, I had only been to the bin. But there he is welcoming me back to the house, with excitement and enthusiasm!

We have an image, about what it is like to be welcomed back home. It is a bit like the movie images, of a harmonious family sitting round the dinner table, synchronising forkfuls of delicious food, with a place setting with your name on it. But it is seldom exactly like this.

This year, we are all so conscious that we can meet up with a few loved ones at Christmas, under the new regulations. But it is so hard. Many people are opting not to visit, as they think this is the best way to keep loved ones safe. Others are travelling or planning, but are worried as to who to invite or not, and how that might be received. There are strained relationships and worries as to what to do. It is so complex, as to what to do for the best.

When we celebrate Christmas, we remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. His birth brings Hope, Love, Salvation, Forgiveness, Joy. It is a beautiful time, whether we celebrate it alone or with others

And if we are celebrating alone, for whatever reason, we remember the story of the Prodigal Son. He was far from home, he turned away from his family and went and did his own thing. But when he decided to go home, his Father was watching for him, and celebrated with the best robe and a feast of celebration, for the one who was lost was found.

This reminds us, that actually we are never by ourselves, for God welcomes us into His presence with a tender love and care. And this Christmas, my prayer is that every person will know that message of grace and love, wherever they may be.

There is a beautiful song called ‘ You came running’ by Laura Story which reminds us that in Luke 15:20 it says: ‘ while he was still a long way off, his Father saw him, and was filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’ The Father sees his children, and he runs to welcome us. What extraordinary grace and undeserved love. When we are with God, we are always spiritually home.

Let us pray, Gracious Father, when we feel lost or alone, thankyou that You are looking out for us, and long to welcome us back to you. Lord Jesus, Saviour of the world, You came as the Word made flesh, to open up the door to eternal life, to all who place their trust in You. Holy spirit, prompt us to keep returning to You, to know that You never turn us away, and that we can be reconciled with Yourself. In the midst of disrupted plans, and empty places this Christmas, may we know how much we are loved by You, and find peace, Amen.

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