How are you all getting on with your Christmas preparations? Off the back of a wonderful community ball on Friday we are full into the festive swing of things and preparing for our Christmas film afternoon on Saturday and our Community Carol Concert on Sunday afternoon.
Yesterday morning I was wandering around the local supermarket, picking something up for dinner and trying to resist filling the trolley up with yet more Christmas decorations. As I was wandered around, I caught a snippet of a conversation between a manager and one of their staff. They were discussing the Christmas stock and the manager was instructing the other member of staff to start a push to get rid of the Christmas stock to make room for the new season. When I heard this I has two reactions. My first one was of panic, wondering if we had got all we needed for Christmas because "if I don't get it in it might be gone soon". My second reaction was irritation of the insistence of the retailers for Christmas to be over and done with before it has begun. This is my favourite time of year: it is when I get to look forward playing silly games with my family and friends, to watching cheesy films, to seeing people smile a little bit more, to seeing everywhere lit up brightly and to immersing myself in the most incredible story of God's love for the world he created. I don't want to be rushed through it, to have it over and done with and to be on to the next thing. I love every second of it and I want to squeeze every ounce of joy, hope, love and peace out of it that I can, so please excuse me if I pause and linger a little longer at every stop on our Christmas journey towards the climactic birth of Christ.
On Sunday we spent some time thinking about the angelic visit to Mary and what it looked like to be favoured by God. At first glance being favoured by God looks like a huge blessing but when we consider Mary's story we begin to see that it also brings hardship and risk. We considered that perhaps God's favour is more about the fulfilment of his purposes for his world rather than personal blessing or fulfilment of our hopes and dreams.
Maybe God's favour is distinctly Jesus shaped.
Yet the angel was able to tell Mary not to fear because God was with her and because no word from God will ever fail. And those are promises that we can place our hope in as well. Whatever life looks like for you right now and whatever the future holds, rest in the knowledge that God is with you and that he holds the future so we can trust that what he promises will be fulfilled.