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Christmas reminds us that true and lasting joy is a gift we receive not a state we achieve. In his webpost ‘How to Find Joy’ (www.tonyrobbins. com/mind-meaning/how-tofind- joy) life coach Anthony Robbins lists nine ways in which we can be more present and feel more joy. Almost all are about what we do – everything from ‘Surround Yourself with Positive People’ to ‘Create Positive Rituals’ to ‘Change Your Physiology’.

How different is the message from the angels to the shepherds the first Christmas, as recorded in Luke’s Gospel Chapter Two Verse Ten: ‘Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.’

Here joy comes to us. Instead of being the possession of a few who are able to master the right techniques this joy is available to all the people without distinction. This joy is good news for us, not good news about us.

And what is that good news? The angel continues: ‘to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’

The birth of any child is good news, but this birth and this child is uniquely good. This child is a Saviour, one who comes to rescue people from sin and death. This child is the Messiah, the long-awaited leader for God’s people. This child is the Lord, the one who deserves our love and honour and service. This child will be named Jesus, and in his life, death and rising he will do all that is needed to bring us back to God. That is great news, and if we receive it and believe it this news is reason to be full of joy.

Christmas can be a time of stress and anxiety, especially if we feel we have to create joy for ourselves and for others. Christmas can instead be a time of peace and gratitude, if we are able to rest in the joy Jesus made for us.

May God bless you and those you love with a joyful and peaceful Christmas, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

~ Bishop Mark Short

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