Perfect Love

A sure sign that Christmas is near is when I start playing my Christmas CDs and old vinyl records to hear my favourite carols again. “In the bleak midwinter” is always played even though I know it depicts a British winter more than a Biblical scene. But one line particularly makes me reflect – “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”.

We all have our hopes and fears. Our hopes we cherish dearly, but what do we do with our fears? We don’t need to encourage them. They just won’t just go away. They can change and we can overcome some, but I think mostly we are stuck with them.

An example for me, which if anything has got worse as I’ve grown older, is fear of heights. This was none too handy at work on building sites when clambering around in the scaffolding. I wished I’d only ever designed bungalows. It’s so easy to get caught out with this affliction.

We’ve just had our chimney swept – I know that’s a bit old fashioned and obviously not a job for me. The stack is five floors up plus the height of the gable. As there are twenty-one pots on our stack, even if I tried I probably wouldn’t get the right one anyway. All went well until the sweep insisted that I go out into the street to see what a good job he had made of fitting a new cowl. My job was just to stand on the pavement and look up. There he was, sitting on the next pot to mine. And yet it was me who was majorly uncomfortable, just by looking. I got that old familiar queeziness. It was irrational of me, but it seems fear is often like that, and this was just me. Nobody around me was getting jittery, least of all the man up top.

Fears can of course protect us by stopping us doing silly risky things. So we cross roads carefully, and respect electricity. It can even motivate us to goodness for fear of damaging our self-esteem and reputations by failing to get a job done, thereby letting others down. But there has to be a better motivator than fear. We need to be positive, looking to our futures with confidence and hope not despair.

This is where the message of the angels to the shepherds is for us. Jesus calmed the storm when the disciples were all at sea. He invites us to “consider the lilies” in Luke 12. In other words, stop being anxious especially about wealth and possessions. God knows us and he cares. He tells us to hold our treasure in heaven where it will always be secure. Somehow we don’t achieve it but in 1 John we read that perfect love casts out fear, and there is perfect love. Jesus brought it and showed how God views us. For all our failings, he is on our side. If so, what is there to fear?

Happy Christmas!

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