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There is Joy in the Unexpected

Most of the people reading this will have at some point in their lives sung the infamous Christmas Carol "Silent Night." A few of you may even know the history of it, but for those of you who don't, let me take you on a short walk through history.

The year was 1818, and it was Christmas Eve at St Nicholas Parish Church in Oberndorf, a small village on the Salzach river in what we now know as Austria. A flood that year had destroyed the organ, and later the church, and the Midnight Mass service was imminent. The young priest in charge had written a poem two years prior to the flood - "stille nacht" - which he gave to his organist, asking him to write a tune for guitar accompaniment to be used that very evening.

The tune was later discovered by the gentleman who serviced the organ, and enamoured, he took the composition home with him. From there, it was performed by two families of travelling folk singers and eventually it reached the emperors of Austria and Russia, before spreading across the globe and becoming one of the most well-loved Christmas carols of today.

Imagine walking in to your church and finding that a flood had destroyed not only your precious building, but also your plans for a service that evening, and indeed your plans for services during the week. Imagine the disappointment, and panic at realising your plans have to quickly change and you must set about trying to not only prepare a new song for that evening, but also think about the long term cost of repairing the church.

Now imagine being stood in St Nicholas Parish Church in 1818, not singing along to the organ but instead singing " silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright." In the face of panic and change, we have the amazing gift of peace and calm which Jesus came to Earth to bring us. It is an everlasting gift of limitless supply, and whatever we face, that peace is readily available for us.

I have heard many words to describe 2020, but perhaps the most common is "unexpected." It has without a doubt been the strangest year in my lifetime, and I dare say, yours too.

There was, however, another 'unexpected' year 2000 years ago. I would hazard a guess that Mary did not expect to be a virgin mother, carrying the Saviour of the world. Joseph probably didn't expect to marry a girl who was pregnant with the Son of God. The people of Bethlehem didn't expect that the long awaited Saviour prophesied about for hundreds of years would be born in their small town. The shepherds did not expect to see an angel in their field, inviting them to visit the Lord himself. And yet, on that unexpected night, the shepherds heard:

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people."

- Luke 2:10 NLT

You see, there is joy in the unexpected. There was joy for the whole world when Jesus was born, on that unexpected night, in that unexpected way (although of course, it was no surprise to God.) There was joy for the parishioners in Austria when out of an awful flood came beautiful music. And out of the hard, strange, unexpected year that is 2020; there will be joy for us too.

This Christmas won't be the Christmas that most of us had planned. But rather than dwell on what could have been, let's set our focus on finding joy in the unexpected.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wishing you every blessing for 2021,

Beth & The LCC Team x

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