Christmas – A time of reflection
The approach of Christmas and a New Year is an opportune time to undergo deep contemplation about one’s faith and life.
Christmas enables us to think about Christ’s birth in the humbling setting of a stable – His resting place was a manger – and how He was born to save mankind from their sins.
We can consider what the coming of Jesus has meant for us personally, and how His birth has impacted how we live out our lives and the positive difference we are making in the lives of others.
This should all be done before we starting thinking about how many presents we are going to buy, or money we’ll spend sharing gifts with friends and family.
And the end of a year offers time for reflection on failures and successes, the highs and the lows, the paths taken during the course of the past year, and the excitement of making plans for the forthcoming one.
There are occasions when we are so blessed we can look back on a year filled with more highs than lows: we may have passed important exams; got that promotion; experienced the birth of a child; got married, or achieved a longed-for goal. Then there are times when we look back with disappointment, because of the lows and difficult life experiences, such as redundancy, bereavement, illness or broken relationships.
Whatever type of year we’ve had, a New Year offers us a chance to start over, just like the birth of Jesus offers mankind the chance of a new beginning to make things right with God.
If you have hopes to make 2020 – the start of a new decade – one of your ‘best years ever’, here are some points you may wish to consider, as you get ready to set your goals and take on the challenges a New Year brings.
1. God is the author and finisher of our faith, so put Him first
2. Love God, yourself and your neighbour
3. Forgive those who’ve done you wrong, and let go of bitterness, grudges and envy
4. Write down your goals
5. Get mentors who can help you achieve your goals
6. Go beyond your comfort zone, and do something you’ve never done to get what you’ve never had
7. Start turning those long-held ideas you have into reality
8. Travel in order to see more of God’s beautiful creation and expand your world
9. Ask God for more faith, so that you can achieve that which seems impossible
10. Pray about everything
CREATE SAFE SPACES
In an effort to improve my public speaking skills, I recently took a comedy master class led by comedian, Angie Le Mar.
I didn’t write any jokes – I know I’m not a comedian – but I learnt invaluable insight and knowledge about performing and speaking in public.
One exercise that filled me with trepidation, but turned out to be a liberating experience, was when everyone was asked to share their initial impressions of their fellow students.
In the main, the comments were mainly positive, and even when they had something negative to say, it was shared in such a caring, humorous and compassionate way, there was no time to get offended.
It was an important exercise to undertake, and reminded me of the time when Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do men say that I am?” in order to gauge how He was viewed by others. The question was more for the disciples’ benefit than His.
But it’s a question we should ask of ourselves and others more often. There are people in churches – including leaders – who unknowingly hurt and upset members and visitors, due to their lack of awareness of how they are perceived, and the impact their behaviour has on others.
The Bible says that ‘iron sharpens iron’ and, whilst we know this saying applies to friendships, it can also extend to the wider church community. Let’s share, in a spirit of truth and love – and some humour – how we experience each other in a way that makes us become better people, and enables us to swallow painful truths.
Benefits of retreats
There’s one thing I would recommend all Christians do at least once during the course of 2020, and that’s to attend a retreat.
I’ve attended several over the years, and what I enjoy about them is they give you the opportunity to get away from your everyday life, and worship the Lord in a relaxed environment, free from everyday cares and worries.
Not only do you get opportunities to form deeper bonds with other people, but you also get a chance to pray in peace, and receive prayer or ministry if you need it.