“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…full of grace and truth.”
From John 1:10-18, NIV.
“Wreck the halls with boughs of baggage, Fa la la la la, la la la la.”
Part of the parody of the Carol ‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly’.
At the turn of the year, it’s traditionally been common to make a resolution to enable a fresh and hopeful start to the unknown that lies ahead. This year, with the uncertainty facing us all due to the pandemic, many people have said that they’re not going to bother as the unpredictable situation has changed so much in their lives that the Christmas and New Year festivities have not had the same meaning and the way ahead is too fearful.
However, some families are isolated from each other and others have to spend so much time together that conflict, abusive relationships and increasing mental health issues are resulting. It can be tempting to try to reinforce our lives with possessions and to cling on to what seems safe and familiar to reassure ourselves in the face of so uncertain a future. In time, the resulting boughs of baggage and mounds of clutter may prove to be destructive if we don’t deal with them because it’s sometimes tempting to hide behind them when faced with uncertainty. The many seasonal messages, financial statements and reviews of the past year remind us that, just as they address what happened during it and the consequences for the future, so it’s important also to take stock of where we are spiritually.
The following Covenant prayer from the Methodist tradition may enable us to do this. It’s a very hard prayer to pray as we face up to the stark uncertainty ahead and ask ourselves what needs to be kept and what should be removed in our spiritual lives while the Christmas decorations are taken down and the New Year unfolds. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God came to the world at a time of great uncertainty and the Christmas story is so familiar that sometimes we forget how astounding it must have been for Mary and Joseph to cope with the astonishing things that were happening and then have to flee from all that was familiar and go to live in Egypt for two years. Jesus’ human family has much to teach us, both then and now.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that God came to the world and yet the world did not recognise him, even though Jesus was ‘full of grace and truth’. If we find the courage to face its challenges and ask ourselves some searching questions about the changing circumstances of our lives, then our eyes may be open to where grace and truth is still to be found today – often, in circumstances even more unlikely than a cattle shed!
With my prayers, Christine.
The Methodist Covenant Prayer.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessèd God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
© 1999 Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. Used with permission.