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How refreshed do you feel?

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..."' Isaiah 30.15

So we've celebrated Christmas, welcomed the New Year, started another term. That means we must be raring to go, yes? Well, maybe. The lingering, indeed worsening, effects of Covid are certainly dampening our enthusiasm. And that apart, the festive season is not necessarily all that restful. There is the build-up, measured in shopping days, the frantic excesses of food and presents, the anti-climax and then another burst of bonhomie at Hogmanay, followed by... detox: diets, dry January, resolutions. It even sounds exhausting!

That is unless we have been keeping the feast in its religious sense. Allowing the restraining influence of Advent to walk us through that season with a sense of awe and anticipation. Celebrating Christmas as both the fulfilment of our hopes and dreams and the foretaste of even greater longings when he comes again. Marking the full 12 days ushering us into another season of awe and wonder, which doesn't peter out but comes to a gentle climax in the Feast of the Epiphany, traditionally associated with the visit of the Magi - those mysterious men from the East who affirm Jesus' divinity. There. Doesn't that feel better?

Letting our faith story, rather than the raucous cries of the world, shape and pace our holiday surely makes for a more meaningful and invigorating experience? And it's not as if we have to wait until Easter for the next opportunity. Belief in God means abandoning the "cycle of works" and living in the "rhythms of grace", rendering every day a "holy day". In practical terms that involves enjoying a regular "quiet time"; pausing before meals to give thanks for food and the myriad other blessings we take for granted; observing the Sabbath, as a weekly opportunity to lay aside our normal preoccupations and to prioritise God who makes it all possible, who gives it all meaning and who is making everything better. And this is not just for those of us who occupy stress-free lives. It is all the more for those going through the mill, who really need it. Consider Jesus, who regularly took time out to pray. Or Paul, who testified "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances..." (Philippians 4. 11).

Time to step off the treadmill and start living... Bliadhna Mhath Ùr!



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