I went to the supermarket yesterday; not normally a thing of note, but two days before Christmas…total insanity. This is not something I would normally subject myself to, but a combination of busy work weeks, cash flow, making a priority of visiting and enjoying other people’s company and, I hear you say, our normal lack of organisation, had left us unprepared to feast (modestly!) at this wonderful celebration of the Incarnation.
The car park was filled to overflowing, with the normal display of Christmas spirit (Not!) in the driving and space grabbing of the frustrated, waiting shoppers.
We eventually found a space and, trolley collected, plunged into the surging crowd of shoppers (just to regain some perspective, this is Berwick-upon-Tweed, but the normally relatively sleepy state of this supermarket only heightens the strangeness of this mad melee!)
There are people and trolleys everywhere…waiting, pushing, grabbing, huffing. The air is noisy with loud chatter, irritated couples, excited children.
I just wanted to get my shopping done and get out of there!
Pushing the trolley, dodging yet another attempt to ram me simultaneously from the front and rear by unaware shoppers, I rounded the corner of a aisle and laughed out loud with joy.
In the midst of the noise, the pushing, the shouts, the frantic shelf-stocking stood a father, a tiny baby fast asleep and totally secure in his arms. There could not have been a more amazing contrast.
I suppose the season makes even me a bit soft, and maybe sentimental, but it refocussed me for a short while on another baby, who came so that stressed and harrased people like me and a million others could know the peace and security of the Father’s arms in the midst of everything life can throw at us.
A couple of weeks ago I had the humbling experience of leading the sharpest, strongest and fittest 82 year old man I have ever met on retreat. I didn’t think there was much help I could be to one who’d been a Christian for so long (although actually,as I found out, he came to faith later in life, so I’d actually been a follower of Jesus for a little longer than him…not that that matters!) In the event, we helped each other…
Obviously I can’t go into the details, but he introduced me to a book I hadn’t read that had been of enormous help to him as, at 82, he faced the problem of God’s silence in unanswered prayer in a way he’d never had to before.
I’ve read (and probably said) some trite stuff about why God doesn’t answer prayer…you know, “Sometimes God says: ‘No’, sometimes ‘Slow’, sometimes ‘Grow’ and sometimes ‘Go’.” Pete Grieg’s book, “God on Mute”is an extremely thoughtful look at God and prayer, based around personal tragedy and God’s apparent silence. I’m still reading it, and finding it sensitively helpful to some of my own hang-ups regarding God’s silence.
Maybe a good buy for yourself or a friend who’s struggling at the moment…but wait until after Christmas before you try to buy it!