I have always loved the autumn and just this morning as I was walking along Queens drive enjoying the crisp November sunshine I was reminded of when I was a kid walking along Elm Vale close to the family home kicking up leaves as I went. I cannot tell you how tempted I was to do the same this morning. Perhaps I should have done to give the frantic drivers something to chuckle about instead of taking life so seriously, but I didn’t!
It was as I walked along I thought how quickly life passes. I thought of the beautiful summer we enjoyed this year, seems like it was just last week rather than months ago. Then, not at all depressingly, I thought about the funeral we have in church this afternoon then the visit to a bereaved family that I have arranged after that. Not gloomy thoughts, it’s just part of life!
When I got back to the vicarage I made a cup of coffee and logged onto Facebook, someone had shared an ‘inspirational’ article from some guy talking about visiting his aunt as a child. During the visit he had commented on the beautiful glass & china that his aunt kept in a glass display case which his aunt told him only came out for special occasions. A month later his aunt died very suddenly and after her funeral service his parents & other aunts and uncles sat in that same room drinking tea out of the fine china and whiskey out of the fine glasses… life is indeed short!
Now I will pause here and apologise if I am depressing you, that is not my intention at all, just the opposite in fact.
We are of course entering the most beautiful Season of Advent and Christmas, I don’t know how many you have enjoyed so far in your life but having reached a significant birthday this year I could tell you exactly how many Christmases I have been here, but I won’t!
One of my favourite books is a ‘Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens and near the beginning of the story the ghost of Jacob Marley tells Scrooge: “It’s at this time of the rolling year that I suffer most. Why in life did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!”
The poor abode was a stable in Bethlehem, the occupants were animals, Mary, Joseph and the new baby Jesus. In that one statement poor old Marley is voicing his regret that he wasn’t kinder to his fellow humans during this life and that he didn’t focus on the wonder, joy and real life that God gives to the world in the form of Jesus Christ. Marley had left this busy earthly life seven years earlier never having given a thought to either. He had been far too busy worrying about his own business to give anything else a thought, and here he was thinking about it, too late!
Too late for Marley but not for Scrooge. Marley’s tale helped Scrooge turn his life around, and he did, and he reaped the benefit whilst he was still here.
We might ask why on earth Marley bothered to come back to chat with Scrooge. We might also ask why God bothered to send His own son to live among ordinary human beings. The answer in both cases is quite simple, it was to save human lives.
God wanted to know what it was like to be human so He came among us to experience our joy & our sorrow, our highs, lows and the bits in between. He came to understand us better. He came to save our life just as Marley did with Scrooge.
Jesus speaks a lot about joy in the Bible. In the gospel according to John (17) He says this: “I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they (meaning us) may have my joy fulfilled in themselves”. ‘At this time of the rolling year’ we would do well to remember the true Christmas Story which is about having and living life to the full.
“Life is for living” my dear mum used to say and she was quite right: As we approach the festive season, which incidentally lasts until February the second, it may be good for us to take a closer look at those around us and try to love them. Yes even the strangers and to look up and think about that lone star which led the Magi to Jesus. There is joy to be found in this life and it is right here among us, let’s take this time to connect to that joy hey? A very Happy & Holy Christmas and a love & joy filled 2019.
Peter your Vicar.
(This article was originally published as part of St David’s Messenger in December 2018)