So Valentine’s day has been and gone once again and some of you will have received gifts or cards from either partners of spouses- others will be wondering who the card was from and some of you may have not received any cards at all!
Every year there seem to be more and more elaborate ways of letting the one you love know how you feel about them on one day of the year- in the UK we spent over £950 million pounds on Valentines gifts in 2016……. That is a huge bunch of roses and amounts to the budget of our very own Constabulary for around five and a half years!
When we think about Valentine’s day this year it falls at the beginning of Lent- a time where we as Christians consider sacrificing something for the lent period whilst reflecting on our own lives in preparation for the celebration of Easter- some join in this tradition of abstinence or fasting whilst others choose not to- I for one will abstain from Chocolate till Easter.
When we think about Valentine’s celebration and the out pouring of Love on 14th February I want to ask you if the 14th February is the only day that you pour that Love out? Is Valentines the only day that your ‘significant other’ knows you love them? I hope and expect the answer to both those questions to be ‘No’!
Love in all its forms is not a one day a year event or feeling- showing love to those around us must be on-going, generous and genuine! I tell Mrs Evans and the girls that I love them every day- I don’t spend hundreds of pounds on flowers during the year and I am not always seen in the Chocolate aisle at the supermarket buying elaborate chocolate creations for them!
However I do show my love to them in other ways that may not seem so elaborate but equally show them that I love them- Tea in bed every day (when I am home) for Mrs Evans, checking on Abigail and Holly every night and tucking them in before I go to bed, taking time to take the time to be there for them – even if it does mean watching the ‘Tinkerbell’ movie for the tenth time this week…. (Other films are available). I know that these things mean more to my family than once a year grand gestures; and I do them because I want to show them Love not because I have to out of obligation!
If we think about Love we must remember that we as Christians are called to Love everyone…… Yes everyone!
Love for those around us isn’t reserved for our family and friends- we must be the ones who show love to those all around us! We can do that in many ways- but obviously too many to list! I recently spoke to a friend who has been having a really tough time- they have felt isolated, alone and totally unsure about how the future was going to play out for them- the simple and straight forward act of me listening to them, showing understanding and praying with and for them was enough for them to know they were not alone and were loved!
During Lent many people sign up to the ’40 acts of kindness’ programme where they try and do 40 random acts of love and kindness during lent to ‘spread the love around’. I often randomly buy the next person in the queue a coffee (mostly anonymously)- or give them my ‘loyalty card’ that entitles them to a free drink- not much I know but after the initial shock of doing something nice they usually smile and say thank you!
In scripture we read in John 13- ‘A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.’
Love is and must be selfless- we read in the scripture in the picture at the beginning of this reflection about the ultimate sacrifice made for us on the cross- for me on the cross even though I don’t deserve it- that is Love!
So this year don’t just think about love for 24 hours- take Love into the world for the rest of the year- Be generous, be selfless- don’t let anyone wonder if you will love them tomorrow!
Have a Blessed month and pray for me as I avoid Chocolate…..
It’s a Boy…………………..!
The Birth of Jesus
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2: 1-20 (NIV).
So once again Christmas has appeared over the horizon and the promise of gifts and surprises for us is all around- ( I am dropping hints about a new set of golf clubs- but I am not hopeful)
Sometimes a surprise is a wonderful thing and that moment it is revealed is very special indeed- I was thinking about this time three years ago when Mrs Evans was eight months pregnant with our second child- at that point I could only describe ‘Holly’ our daughter as our second child because we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl- When the day arrived for Holly to appear there was a wonderful moment for me as her father when as she was delivered and I saw we had a beautiful baby girl and I was the only person in the world who knew that her name was Holly Grace Evans- it was a moment that will stay with me for ever – it was my moment….
If you have children it is a conversation you will have for the entire nine months- boy, girl, twins, triplets… or even more.- Everyone will have a view or a guess but unless you actually find out from the midwife if you are having a boy or a girl (They can be wrong by the way!) then that moment is a wonderful surprise I promise you!
When we think about the very first Christmas and Mary expecting a baby there was no surprise- her first born would be a son… in Luke Chapter 1 Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel who tells Mary ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.’
Even the visitors knew the baby was a boy before they arrived- the shepherds were told where they would find the baby and that ‘he is the Messiah’.
The name of her son had also already been decided- (so no endless conversation between Mary and Joseph on names they liked). Even though it wasn’t a surprise it didn’t make the birth of a son any less special or wonderful- I suspect it was as memorable as a birth where the parents don’t know if they have a boy or a girl!!
At Christmas time our children hope for wonderful surprises- our two daughters are both wound up tighter than a spring at the impending Christmas holidays and the excitement of Chocolate Advent calendars appearing was equally exciting for us adults and the girls!!!
We were shopping recently when we stopped for brunch and over our meal I asked Abigail- our nine year old daughter ‘Do you think you are on the nice list or the naughty list?’ She took a moment to think about her answer, took a sip of her Apple juice and replied:
‘Daddy I know that you and Mummy buy all my presents and I don’t believe in Father Christmas anymore’.
What I could possibly say to that other than confirm (Second Spoiler Alert) that in fact she was correct and that there is no Father Christmas- to be honest I thought we had one more year of Father Christmas but I was wrong….! We have also discussed- the tooth fairy, the Dummy Monster and the Easter Bunny………
So now Abigail doesn’t believe in Father Christmas- so does this ruin or spoil her Christmas?
No of course not! Because we have taught her that there is a true meaning to Christmas that isn’t about Chocolate Advent calendars, Father Christmas, Presents, being with family or time off school- for us Christmas is the celebration of the Birth of Jesus- the most precious gift given ever.
God gave his son as a gift to a broken world so that we can have a chance of redemption and new life if we trust and believe in him!
We read in John 3:16-17
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’
The encouragement and challenge to us all this Christmas is to take this wonderful message of forgiveness and redemption and share it with those around us- Jesus came for everyone and I would encourage you to share the good news of the true meaning of Christmas or take the time to explore what a relationship with Jesus could do to make this Christmas and 2018 even better for you!
So from your Branch Leadership team and our families I would like to wish you all a blessed Christmas time whether you are off or like me on nights L…….
It would be great to see as many of you who can make it to the Carol service !
God Bless and Happy Christmas