Joy

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Christmas is ever so nearly here. That means presents. Buying presents. Wrapping presents. Giving presents. Receiving presents. It’s all about the presents. Then it’s boxing day… it’s all over… for another year. The thought this week is:

Seek joy in what you give not in what you get.

This is a great message in relation to presents… spoiler alert… Christmas is not all about the presents! But that is not what I want to focus on.

So often there is such a huge build up to Christmas, what with decorations, parties, carol singing and so much more, that we have that joy and excitement but then it seems to go and disappear and you can feel a little deflated.

But that was not the case with the story of Jesus. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was just a part of the story which is continuing today. It wasn’t even the beginning of the story, and we can be a part of that story today.

The joy that we think about at advent is a fruit of the spirit. Joy comes from relationship with God it is a state of contentment, confidence and hope.  Joy is something that we can have all year round, not just when the Christmas music is on the radio, or once we have opened the presents.

The part of the thought for the week I want to focus on is “Seek joy”

In the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth two groups of people sought Jesus. The shepherds and the wise men knew that there was something special, that was going to bring great joy and they went to find it.

Joy isn’t something that we just get given by God, it is something we need to seek. I am sure that many of my facebook ‘friends’ are convinced that I have the most fantastic life. Well, yes, personally I think my life is pretty great, but it’s definitely not all plain sailing, there are pitfalls on the way and tough days. However, I choose not to share those on facebook. I tell close friends but on facebook I share the excitement in my life, both in special occasions but also in the mundane.

Henri Nouwen said “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”

Do you choose to find the joy, to recognise the good in people, in life, in the world? As I said joy is a fruit of the spirit – as with all fruits as they grow they bear more fruit. As you recognise and receive joy, you will then share that with others, they will then grow and share…

We should also encourage joy. We’ve all had those days when we have felt rubbish and there’s always one person who is so excitable about what we may consider to be nothing. It is so tempting to bring them down to our state of mind. But actually we are taught to allow people to be joyful and to encourage them to be so.

We live in a world which thrives on the negative things. We have the possibility to seek the good, and to bring joy to a world that needs it. When Jesus was born, he bought joy to the world, some recognised that joy, some sought it out, some rejected it. Who are you going to be? How are you going to react to the good news of Jesus Christ’s birth?

Prayer: Father God we thank you that you give us so much. We pray that we will recognise the joy in our every day lives and share that with others. Amen

Challenge: Try to look for the joy each day, and share that joy with others.

Peace

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I love noise. I surround myself with noise. There are likely to be many pupils reading this shocked, as I’m always asking them to be quiet. But I honestly do like noise (in the appropriate places). I am always listening to music as I’m walking to and from work, whilst I’m doing work, whilst I’m cooking, whilst I’m washing up, and whilst I’m running. I am also a very loud person. Therefore, I always panic when I have to talk/write about the topic of peace. But once again that’s because of the way we use the word peace.

We quite often talk about peace in terms of noise. Once children have gone to bed; once the loud music has stopped; once the computer game has been turned off; once you’ve got out of a crowded place – we respond with something like “Oh it’s nice to have some peace and quiet”. It is nice, and it can be beneficial, but when Jesus came and was known as the Prince of Peace, is that what was meant? Jesus, the Prince of quietness. It doesn’t have quite the same ring about it does it? In fact, Jesus was always talking, he was often surrounded by people. Yes, he had times of solitude which were necessary but the rest of the time noise was essential.

We live in a world where there is a lot of turmoil, and fighting. We turn on the news to hear horror stories of what is happening in the world. This is where the word peace is used again. That we wish we lived in a world of peace. It’s often an answer given at beauty pageants. It’s not something you can really argue with, wouldn’t we all love to live in a peaceful world? But, seriously, what can we actually do about it? We can’t bring about world peace. So surely it’s better just to talk about it as a wish?

Enter Jesus… the Prince of Peace.

Our thought for the week says “For Jesus, peace seems to have meant not the absence of struggle, but the presence of Love.” We can do that.

When Jesus came he didn’t try to fight against the authorities, or get rid of the Roman rule. He loved. He spent time with people, he taught people, he built up relationships with people. We can do that.

He went to people who had been outcast from society, who were considered outsiders. He helped those who were sick. We can do that.

He ate with people. He laughed with people. He cried with people. We can do that.

Jesus came to reunite people with God, but also to reunite people. It is scary to think about the prospect of world peace, and the part we can play. But we can love those we are in contact with on a daily basis (not just friends and family). A simple act of love can affect someone in a way you cannot imagine, and then that can have a ripple effect, suddenly, before you know it you have started to bring Peace to the world.

Prayer – Thank you Father that you sent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to bring us back to you. May you help us to bring your peace to the world. Amen.

Challenge – Mother Theresa said “Peace begins with a smile”.  What can you do to show love and bring peace in your community? A smile; an open door; carrying a bag; saying good morning. Let me know!

Written by Mrs. Netherton

Advent – Hope

3641571760_03a17e8134_zA reflection from Craig who took assembly this morning.

If I asked you what are you hoping for this Christmas I wonder what your answer would be? Would it be for a perfect Christmas, a Mulberry handbag, a new PlayStation or just to have the family together? I am always hopeful that my football team will win on Boxing Day, but alas as a Newcastle fan that isn’t going to happen.

We use the word hope in lots of different situations but the kind of hope we speak of at Christmas isn’t the same.

Advent is a time of year where we are waiting and looking forward to Christmas. It’s supposed to be a bit like when you shake a fizzy drink, and you are getting excited for Christmas, until the cork pops off, when all that pressure and excitement is released on Christmas Day with a great celebration.

Advent is also a time where we are waiting for the return of King Jesus. He promised that one day he would return and make everything perfect again; there would be no more crying or pain or death, he will wipe away every tear. This is what we hope for in Advent; the perfect restoration of all of creation.

As we look around the world and see all that is happening, it isn’t difficult to see how wrong and worrying things are; the rise of ISIL, bombings in Beirut and atrocities closer to home in Paris. This isn’t the way that God created things to be. The hope we are thinking about at Advent is a perfect hope that Jesus will one day return and bring everything back to its perfect order.

We see this now in glimpses when we see the sick healed, the hungry fed, the poor set free, the broken hearted comforted, and freedom for those in captivity. This is a sign of the promise that Jesus made – that one day he would return.

So amongst all the Christmas shopping, all the Christmas parties, meals and celebrations, why not take some time this Advent to slow down and think about what Christmas really means? Where can you sneak two minutes to think about what it means that Jesus is ‘God with us’ and that we can have a secure hope in him?

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’

All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’(which means ‘God with us’).” Matthew 1.21-23.

Written by  The Rev. Craig Hunt, Curate at St. Mary Bredin Church, Canterbury

Hope

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The thought for the week this week is

Hope came. Hope chose us. Hope calls us his beloved.

Upside down grace

 

The word ‘hope’ is used a lot at this time of year. Maybe we have a list of things we ‘hope’ we are going to get for Christmas. Maybe we ‘hope’ that there aren’t going to be any family squabbles over the Christmas break. Maybe we ‘hope’ that the XFactor single doesn’t get to number one. Maybe we ‘hope’ that it will be a white Christmas.

We use the word hope to talk about things we would like to happen but that we can’t necessarily say it will. I know I’m getting a new dressing gown for Christmas, I ‘hope’ that it is one I like! I ‘hope’ that I get most of my work done so that I don’t have much to do over the holiday.

This week is the start of advent: we get to open calendars everyday (or eat a lot of chocolates in one go when we forget daily); we get to put up the decorations; we get to write cards; wrap presents; get the food; go to parties; wear silly jumpers (which are suddenly acceptable). A lot of preparation is involved.

Advent is all about preparation, but it is not about preparing for the practicalities of Christmas, it is about preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ.

It is the birth of Christ that gives Christians Hope. Hope is not about wishful thinking, hope is about knowing that God is in control and that God is going to be there holding our hand the entire way. There are loads of promises throughout the Bible. Many of the promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled when Christ was born. This gives us hope that all the promises God has made will happen. They are not pipe dreams, they will become actuality.

By having hope in these promises, it means that we can get on with our daily lives knowing that God has got it all sorted. We have our part to play, and we may not know what God has in store, but we have that hope that God knows – because he has promised.

One promise that has given me hope throughout my life is this

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

I have no idea what God has in store, and there is no way this time last year that I had any idea I would be doing what I am doing now. There have been some real highs in my life and there have been some real lows but since coming across this promise it has given me that hope that God knows me, He has no intention to harm me, but only wants good for me. And it is through recognising that good that I have hope in the rubbish times.

Prayer – Father God, thank you for coming to this earth in the person of Jesus. We thank you for the hope that gives to us. We pray that we will recognise your promises to give us hope in the everyday. Amen

Challenge – This week recognise the good in yourselves and in others. Help them to see God’s promises fulfilled in them.

Written by Mrs. H. Netherton