(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
8th December 2007
As we approach the end of the year, I've started to look back.
2007 didn't turn out the way I'd planned, or the way I'd wanted. Parts of it were better than I expected, other parts were worse. Some people showed me much more love than I would have thought, others treated me much worse than I could have imagined. God did some of the things I asked Him to, but not others. He gave me some great times, and some tough times. And I expect we could all say the same, although all of our lives are different, and the proportions of happy and sad, joyful and painful, surprising and predicable, are different for each of us, too.
I'm coming to terms with some of the painful things. You have to.
Paul wrote this to the Colossians:
If you've been hurt or disappointed this year (and I expect you have) then, as we approach the annual celebration of Jesus Christ coming into the world as the ultimate expression of the love of God, may I encourage you?
Dear Christian brother or sister, you are one of God's chosen people. You are holy. You are dearly loved. Never let anybody take away from you the sense of security and love that God has given you.
Has it been a tough year for you? Have you got "compassion fatigue"? Has this year worn away at your kindness? Have you lost some of your humility? Are you feeling too beaten up to be gentle? Too tired to be patient? Then take a few minutes. Choose to clothe your self again with these virtues. You're a Christian. Live like a Christian.
We've all been sinned against. You have genuine, legitimate grievances against other people, both inside the church and outside. As a Christian, you know that you should have forgiven whoever sinned against you at the time. Perhaps you didn't, but it's not too late. Now is a good time to forgive. And forgive whatever grievances you may have. Jesus Christ has forgiven all your sin. Ask Him to help you to forgive whoever it was that sinned against you. Get free.
And choose again to love everybody you come into contact with. If you're a Christian then, when you're in Sainsbury's, you should be the nicest person the girl on the till has seen all day. But, in particular, love the other people in your church. This binds the church together in unity. And it speaks more powerfully than anything else about the love of God in Jesus Christ:
And next year? In all probability, it will be much the same. Things will happen that you could never have predicted - both good things and bad. Some people will hurt you. Others will heal you. Some will cheat you. Others will give to you. Some will hate you and others will love you. And God will keep you through it all, and use all of it to develop your character. And, this time next year, you'll look back and be amazed at what happened. And you'll give thanks to God for some people. And you'll need to forgive others.