I hate the beginning of a new year. Where I live in the north-west of England the weather is discouraging. It is dark in the mornings and at tea-time; it can be dark all day on a day like today with continuous grey skies; sheets of rain driving across the moors and wind that gets into the house through every nook and cranny. I miss 2014. I miss Christmas, the lights decorating trees and garages, lamp posts and window frames. I miss the clutter of Christmas, the Christmas cards on every shelf; the red scented candles, even if I thought it too dangerous to light them; the torn pieces of wrapping paper in the waste paper bin waiting to be recycled. I miss the magic of the Christmas story-the shepherds being greeted on a starry night by angels singing; Mary’s miraculous pregnancy and birth; the dream and protection through Joseph; the guiding star and another dream guiding the wise men.
And now its a new year; forget the old and bring in the new. Everything is back to normal whatever normal is to me and you. Back to the same old daily life. Forget about peace on earth; and light shining in the darkness. Everything is back to how it was before; uninspiring and secular. And what makes it worse in the Methodist church is the Covenant service. Do you know the words?
I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. Gracious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are mine, and I am yours. May it be so forever. Let this covenant now made on earth be fulfilled in heaven. Amen.
I am no martyr. I don’t want to suffer, to be laid aside, to be brought low, to be empty, to have nothing. Why do we have to declare it and especially at this time of year? Where is the hope for the good things of the kingdom? Where is hope at all? Emotionally, it sucks.
I would much rather be doing; to be employed; to be exalted; to be full; to have all things. In the past I have resisted the Covenant service. No, I don’t want to say it; to make that vow to our three-in-one God. I would much rather have my desires and God’s coincide rather than declare wholeheartedly I yield whatever the outcome.
Is it not enough that I am child-less; or child-free depending on my perspective at the time? Christmas is a time that heightens my child-less state. Do you need to take more from me? What is it that you want from me?
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!’ he said, “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. (Matthew 16:21-23)
It is a bleak message. It is a wonder that we follow Jesus at all. Or is it…? Behind those blunt words from Jesus, is there something more than a personal rebuff. For Jesus it was so important for his disciples to ‘get’ it. A few minutes earlier, or so it was recorded, Peter had just declared that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus had then commended Peter for knowing this by ‘my Father in heaven’ . What is going on? Has Peter fallen from grace so quickly? Or can it give us hope that Peter who became the ‘rock’ could stumble and mistake the things of God? Like Peter, do we just have glimpses of revelation in the midst of massive blunders.
These last two Christmases have not been easy for me. No, I am being brave; as an adult many Christmases have been emotionally challenging due to one issue or another. Christmas can highlight loss; relationship difficulties; unrealised expectations; failures; personal and work related stress. I have suffered and struggled (my own personal jihad, if I dare whisper that name) and I have been greatly blessed. Not always at Christmas. I can prefer Lent, Holy week and Easter. Those times allow you to experience the whole gamut of emotions. When you are stripped of the things you value, clarity can be found. And love. Strange that. I didn’t think that suffering could bring both blessing and love.
Thank goodness it is still Epiphany, just! An epiphany is a revelation.
There’s a human yearning for signs. Life would be so much easier at each twist or turn if there was a clear pointer forward. Wrestling with which way to go can be an uncomfortable experience. God offers signs. God offers these in ways which can challenge a too easy demand for a personal answer. God’s signs are touched with mystery and wonder. Epiphany is the season of signs. These aren’t personal answers to prayer, but signs of God’s glory revealed in the world. The wise men follow a sign, not by an easy route and they get lost on the way. The sign is the star leading them to the birth of the Saviour. There they encounter a greater sign than the star; the baby in whom God was mysteriously and wonderfully incarnate. (Rev. Christine Perry: an extract from her sermon on Covenant Sunday; Jan 11 2015)
‘ A cold coming we had of it,
just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
‘All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death?
There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.‘
(Extracts from: Journey of the Magi by T.S.Eliot)
I think that I have seen signs amongst my fellow bloggers. Check them out and see what you think.
https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/68303232/ Take a peep at her poetry especially the one entitled “More important than having control”
https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/40277979/ Reflect on his posts especially the one entitled: Lord, I gift you my emptiness
Admire her honesty in poetry and prose and especially the one entitled: “First Snow & The New Year”
http://lljostes.wordpress.com/ She has lovely posts. For the connection here please read her post: January 5 Empty But Full
https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/71220657/ This in many ways is a heart rendering blog. For today, learn from her post: “Just because they are different”
https://sharethecoffee.wordpress.com/ Please check out the post “Merry Boxing Day”. It made my heart feel glad.
And there are so many more who I am just getting to know. Each one of you are stars guiding our way. Thank you.
And finally, my question again is: is Christmas only for the Children? I love gentle comments even if you want to disagree with what I have written.