Good News of Great Joy!
I am writing this on a cold, wet November day, of which there have been many this year. Outside the puddles are growing and I am grateful for the wood stove in my study. I am interrupted on my laptop with annoying adverts for Black Friday deals promising me instant happiness with the latest bargain…. but yesterday I witnessed a deeper and more lasting joy. 11 candidates (6 adults and 5 teenagers) gathered in St Peters Church to be confirmed by Bishop Sarah. They renewed their baptismal promises and their desire to follow Jesus, the Way, the truth and the life. Bishop Sarah laid hands on them and prayed for the presence and gift of the Holy Spirit and then they shared with us in the family meal of the church: holy communion. The occasion was marked with a tangible joy, which we all shared.
The last Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams describes this joy as ‘the sense that we are connected with something so real that it will break every boundary or container we try to confine it in, a sense of something overflowing, pushing outwards…’ This is the joy of relationship with the God who made and loves us. The JOY of belonging to his people and serving God’s purpose in the world. It is deep and abiding, despite the storms and uncertainties of life. This is what the angels announced to the shepherds on the hillside above Bethlehem:
‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great JOY that will be to ALL the people,'
This was followed by an invitation - to leave their sheep and hurry down the hillside into the alleys of Bethlehem in search of ‘the sign’ – a baby swaddled and lying in a manger. Why was this ‘sign’ so significant?..... because only ordinary peasants swaddled their babies in the traditional way and might use a manger as a cradle. The sign the angels gave was ‘code’. It told these poor shepherds that God had come down to the ordinary folk; he was in their homes;
seeking shelter amongst the poor. The God of the heavens living among them – GOOD NEWS! This JOY was for all people who would respond to God’s invitation to come.
Still today he invites us, young and old, rich and poor…. to come and discover his love in the person of Jesus who promises to walk with us on the road of life and discover his peace and JOY. I pray you will make room in your heart this Christmas to meet with him and
‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.’
Rev Becky Richards