The river of joy
After three months of R&R between July and October, it is good to be back. I am grateful to the church for providing this leave.
During this time, Carolyn and I enjoyed some of the world’s great rivers – sailing the Mekong in Asia, watching the Zambesi flow into Victoria Falls in Africa and marvelling at elephants on the Chobe Delta.
While in South Africa, we came across two small relatively unknown rivers. One is the Truer (river of sorrow) and the other is the Blyde (river of joy). The Truer was named after some explorers set off from there but didn’t come back, presumed dead. The Blyde was named after they returned and were reunited on its banks.
The river of sorrow enters the river of joy at a place called the Potholes, where you look down a steep ravine to see where the waters meet, but it is the Blyde – the river of joy – that continues, even though their waters now flow together.
Over a long period of time, the two rivers have carved out the Blyde River Canyon, the canyon of joy, which is the third largest in the world and stunningly rugged and beautiful.
At the end of another year, no doubt the ‘river of sorrow’ has entered the ‘river of joy’ for many of you in all sorts of ways you never expected or wanted.
Our faith says that God meets us in the ‘potholes’ of life and there brings joy to our sorrows. We live with a mixture, but joy wins out, that’s God’s promise to us in Christ, whatever the circumstances of life may be.
At this time of year, the season of Advent, with its focus on the second coming of Christ (something we easily lose sight of) and with its preparation to celebrate Christ’s coming at Christmas, we are invited to lift our sights and look at life, the world and the future from God’s perspective.
We are reminded that God comes to meet us in the mixture of joy and sorrow that life is now. We are also reminded that when Christ returns, life with him forever will be without any sorrow. It will also include a reunion with all who have died, sharing the faith we hold to in Jesus.
We can’t avoid the potholes of life, or living with sadness, but we also live in the world with the joy that entered it when Jesus came and lived among us. Joy that remains and goes with us every day, because Jesus is ‘God with us’.
We dare to believe that in, and through this mix of joy and sadness that is life, God promises to be at work, just as he was through Christ at the cross.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her king;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
God bless you, your congregations and families, as you receive again the gift of joy from God – Jesus Christ at Christmas.