I have to confess that in many ways I'm glad to be back at work, following my Christmas break.
I've found the recent holidays a struggle. This is because the way I discipline myself revolves around work. I tend to have a quiet time to study during my lunch breaks; I find without some kind of structure to my day, I just tend to not bother. Usually this isn't a problem because I've normally got church to fall back on.
This last year's been very different though, because of the way services have been structured. Before this morning, the last time I went to church to take part in active worship was Christmas Day -which seems a lifetime away. I took my foot off the pedal a little and paid a bit of a price. Psychologically, I lost complete track of time and space and became utterly disorientated because all the days were the same.
Spiritually I got a little slack... which disappointed me.
I've recently reflected that often the annual message wheeled out at Christmas, is aimed at non-Christians, backsliders and people who generally are only likely to attend church during the seasonal period.... and rightly so, in many ways. However my own recent experience has given me reason to consider the other side of the coin - Christians who are solid 95% of the year and then coast for the last couple of weeks or so.
Some of you may be reading these words and thinking - this is typical slavish nonsense from a man who is bound in chains by the oppression of organized religion. You'd be wrong.
Christianity is full time - it's not a pastime, it's not a robotic regime of enforced servitude... it is a relationship with the living God. In a marriage, you are bound to your partner; in rearing children, parents and legal guardians are bound to those they are raising to adulthood. However... do you seriously think either of these groups - married couples or parents, regard the legal aspects of these relationships as their defining principles?
In the majority of cases, the binding principle is LOVE.
It is no different in a relationship with God. In fact two of the strongest images we have in the Bible for the relationship God has with his people, is that of the bridegroom to his bride, and also that of the father to his children.
Jesus (and other Jewish teachers) even summarised the Law from 5 books of numerous rules and regulations, into two sentences about loving the Lord your God and loving your neighbour.
So for the cynics out there, I wish to make it clear... we do not love because we obey, we do our best to obey because we love. For the Christian, love must be at the root of all our actions... and not just our love, but God's.
My greatest concern about the Christmas lull is not about failing to attend services or observe rituals, but that it means time away from God as a loved one. It's similar to locking yourself in your room and not talking to your spouse or your parents for a week.
However, I'm finding that now we are back in the swing of things, I've found my feet again. Hopefully this means I'll be a lot more communicative in the weeks to come.
Until next time, my hope is that you have had a blessed new year.