Joseph and his rainbow-coloured coat is a well-known story and, of course, musical. It is a story with a happy ending….. eventually! I have been pondering the journey that Joseph was forced to undertake after his brothers sold him to into slavery. Jealous of their Father’s favouritism towards Joseph, fed up with his boasting, his rainbow coat was to prove the final straw. They initially planned to murder him but instead sold him into slavery. Can you imagine how Joseph must have felt as at the hands of a band of ruffians he was taken in chains to a foreign land? Stripped, betrayed, sold and alone it must have been the worst journey of his life. And yet, in years to come, after many more adventures, he was able to say to his brothers:
“ But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. — Genesis 50:20 .”
Have you seen God work through painful and difficult circumstances to bring good out of them? How might that enable you to help others? What good might God be able to bring out from the current Covid journey we are all on?
Did you know that in order to see a rainbow you have to be under dark rain clouds with your back to the sun? Gods promise is that sooner or later the rainbow will appear in our journeys-no matter how dark they may seem at the time.
Octavoce have performed in St James in the past. They cannot do so in this time of Covid but they are holding a Christmas concert this year via their website and on Facebook on 20th December. For those interested below are the details and the links.
“In this very unusual year, we’d very much like to invite your congregation to our online Christmas concert this year. We love coming up to Dingwall and Fortrose and we are sad not to be able to do so this year. However we are not deterred and are performing our Christmas concert online this year via our website. https://www.octavoce.org.uk/christmas-2020-online. We hope that this may mean that many of you who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to attend, may be able to do so this year. The event will be streamed at 7.30pm on 20th December. It is free but donations are welcome!”
Yesterday we journeyed with Jacob as he fled his home and encountered God in the dark, lonely night. Now, many years later, he is making the return journey. Now he has wives, sons and daughters, flocks and riches. But he is still afraid of what his reception might be from his brother, so he sends them all on ahead and prepares to spend the night alone again. And into this darkness God comes, in the form of an angel, whom Jacob wrestles with all night.
It is an amazing episode, full of incident, unanswered questions and mystery. It is not an outward journey this time, but an inward one that Jacob has. For somewhere in the titanic struggle that takes place Jacob is changed. He holds onto God, despite having his hip out of joint and he comes out of it no longer as Jacob- the chancer, the cheater, the liar, the coward-but as Israel, the father of the twelve tribes of the Jewish nation.
Are there times in your life when you feel you have wrestled with God? When faith has felt like a struggle against doubt and uncertainty? What might we learn from Jacob?
5th December Suggested reading: Genesis 28 v 10-22
How dark it has been these last couple of days! The beautiful crisp and icy landscape quickly disappeared into the rain and gloom of dark December. Travelling in the dark, as so many must do at this time of the year, is never easy, particularly in this part of the world where street lighting is often scarce!
On our journey through Advent it stuck me that Jacob was someone who knew about travelling in the dark-literal and spiritual. Jacob has tricked his brother Esau out of his privileged position as the oldest son and has to flee for his life. He travels away from the family disagreement and heads towards his uncle Laban. The sun sets as he journeys and, with no light to travel by, he settles down in the wilderness with only a stone pillow to sleep on.
Who knows what thoughts went through his mind as he lay there alone in the dark and the cold but I am sure that many of us at one time or another may have found ourselves feeling something similar. Overwhelmed perhaps by the darkness of grief, fear, loneliness, anxious with an unhappy past and an uncertain future?
And yet, into this dark night, God comes and speaks. As you look back in your own life what times of darkness has God used to speak to you? What might he be saying to you, his church, his world as we walk this Advent through the darkness of Covid?
One of the earliest Bible characters who undertakes a momentous journey is Abraham. Genesis 12 tells us that when Abraham was 75 years old God called him to leave his own country and to journey to a land “that I will show you”. No destination given, no clear map, just the promise that God would bless him and through him bless many others. And Abraham went. He had many adventures on the way-learning a lot about himself and about God as he journeyed.
As we journey on through Advent, we too are called to journey in faith, in uncertainty, without a clear map of where we are headed. As we do so we can learn a lot about ourselves- and how much we like to feel in control!
How does the fact that we cannot map out our journey or set a safe destination make you feel?
Who is truly in the driving seat of your life today?
Setting out to journey towards God this Advent means keeping our eyes and ears-and all our senses- alert to his presence. I have been pondering on the experience of those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were journeying in sadness, confusion and uncertainty-and perhaps we can identify with those emotions in our life and most certainly in our world today. But someone came to journey with them. They did not recognise the stranger but when he talked to them, when he walked with them, they found new hope, new understanding, new joy. It was only when, much later, as he sat and broke bread with them that they realised that Jesus himself was their travelling companion.
As we travel through Advent may we be alert to God speaking to us, journeying with us. He may come in all sorts of unexpected ways-in the chance meeting, the smile of a stranger, a line of a song or a poem that keeps returning, a sunset or evening star. As you look back over the day can you see signs of his presence? How might you become more aware of God alongside you?
“By this time, they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” Luke 24 v 29-31
Advent means coming. We prepare for the coming of Christ into our world and we look forward to the day when he will come again. In many ways, advent is all about the journey of God to us through the centuries of the patriarchs, prophets and finally through Christ himself in the Incarnation. There are many journeys tied up in the Christmas narrative and we will be thinking about some of them as go. But advent is also a call for us to journey afresh towards God, to seek him. Whilst the world continues to journey through this pandemic, and however we have coped -or not -with the challenges it has brought, Advent offers us all the opportunity to make our journey into a pilgrimage. Each day during Advent there will be a short passage and thought here for you to ponder and I hope that we can journey together in seeking God afresh in our lives.
December 1st 2020
I wonder if, like me, you are an extravagant packer? When we go away, I always take far too many things, most of which will remain in the suitcase unused and unnecessary. All they will have done is weigh me down and slow me down as I try to carry them- be it at the station or airport or just into the car!
In our journey toward God I wonder how much baggage we are carrying? How many past hurts or wounds, how many preconceived ideas or plans of our own? How much anger, fear or cares are we laden with? What might God be asking you to divest yourself of and give to Him this Advent as your journey?
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11 v 28
“The soul that journeys to God but does not shake off its cares and quiet its appetites, is like one who drags a cart uphill.”