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Christmas cheer?

December 2009 | by Richard Gibson

Christmas cheer?

 

Let’s face it, there are not that many reasons to be cheerful nowadays!

    

We are in what is politely called a ‘recession’. Unemployment figures are higher than for a long time; people are losing their homes; and banks that helped get us into this mess are once more dishing out massive bonuses to staff, for doing the job they are paid to do anyway!

     We are told to earn more, spend less and save more; then told to spend more to get us out of the economic crisis. Utility bills are at a crippling new high when we can least afford it.

     We have lost confidence in the political establishment, with the media exposing the greed of those within the political class who milk the public purse. The consequent low voter turnout at the last elections allowed the far-right BNP to vote in two MEPs.

 

Traumas

 

Each week we hear more accounts of our brave soldiers dying in the unending conflict in Afghanistan and their broken families back home coping with the tragic loss. Adding to the trauma, we learn that our armed forces do not have the right equipment at the right time and the MOD tries to claw back on payments to injured soldiers.

     Many people just tune out the noise of misery through alcohol and drugs, or give in to despair. For once people have dispensed with belief in God, who is there left to blame? I’ve never heard anyone exclaim, ‘I can’t believe in atheism anymore; just look what’s happening in the world!’

     The fact is that even if you don’t believe in God, bad stuff still happens! So, as many cannot logically blame a God they don’t believe in, they turn again to the ‘fall guy’ of medieval times and blame the Jews. But if the Jews are so powerful, how come Israel is also in a deep recession with one in four of its citizens living below the poverty line?

     We live in dark times indeed.

     In the seventies, Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ song ‘Reasons to be cheerful’ gave an eclectic list of reasons. It got me thinking what would make it into my top three list of reasons to be cheerful during the credit crunch. Well, here they are:

 

First, your real value is not your bank account

 

There are more people unemployed than claiming unemployment benefit, suggesting that many feel too humiliated to ‘sign on’. It is easier to feel insignificant because of what we don’t have, than significant because of who we are — people created in the image of God.

     The Book of Genesis records in Hebrew that we are created in God’s tzelem ve dmut (‘image and likeness’). These Hebrew words convey the deep mystery that humans bear something of God in them.

     This truth is what the British anti-slavery movement based itself upon — the belief that all human beings are God’s image-bearers and worthy of respect and freedom.

     We can have honour and dignity even in a recession, because we have a value and worth as God’s image-bearers far beyond our bank statement and employment status.

 

Second, God made us flexible

 

Human beings are incredibly robust, both physically and emotionally. It is remarkable what hardships some adapt to and cope with. Take Stephen Hawking, author of A brief history of time, who despite his neuromuscular dystrophy is one of the great physicists of our times.

     We only have to look at many facing physical challenges who live active and fulfilled lives to realise the resilience of human beings.

     If this is what human nature enables people to rise to, how much more does the wisdom of the New Testament help us stay sane in the credit crunch! ‘I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content’ (Philippians 4:11); in other words make the most of what you have.

 

Third, there is always a way out

 

No matter how deep the hole we find ourselves in, there is always a way out. Think of the weather. No matter had bad it is we can always look forward to better weather and a bit of sunshine!

     It is often said, ‘When you’ve hit rock bottom, you can only go up!’ The most important message of the New Testament is that out of rock bottom defeat can come victory by embracing the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

     When everything looked lost, Jesus had his greatest victory. The apostle Paul reflected on this truth when he wrote, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness … For when I am weak, then I am strong'(2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

     I recently read an article on a financial web site on how to survive the recession. It ended with this: ‘In the end, our motto should be — hope for the best, but prepare for the worst’.

     Apply that helpful thought to the profounder issues of life. With your faith firmly in Jesus, no matter what happens, the worst has already been met by Jesus Christ dying for your sins. The realities of eternal life lie ahead of you, and the best is yet to come.

Richard Gibson

The author is in Christian ministry in Leeds.

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