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Love, patience and huge self-control will see us through Covid Christmas

Rev Steve Stockman


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Health Minister Robin Swann and Dr Michael McBride after the post-Christmas lockdown was agreed

Health Minister Robin Swann and Dr Michael McBride after the post-Christmas lockdown was agreed

PA

Health Minister Robin Swann and Dr Michael McBride after the post-Christmas lockdown was agreed

So, the big, tight lockdown is on its way. I guess we figured that it was coming, if not quite that soon. Looking at the statistics and the pressure on the hospitals, it does seem the only thing to do. Fair play. Strong leadership. We knock our Executive a lot. Credit where it is due.

Who would be a politician at the best of times, never mind at the worst of times? So, I have been giving politicians a bit of slack and a lot of prayer. Even the ones I don't like!

Now, about the week leading up to Christmas and the five-day bubble. That is a whole other thing entirely.

I am a chocoholic. I mean the real deal. I could eat an entire packet of dark chocolate digestives with one cup of coffee. Indeed, I have.

I have tried to go cold turkey and, as I have passed a petrol station, I have been fighting with the steering wheel to go in and get a bar of chocolate. No... keep it on the road!

That bit in the Lord's Prayer about leading us not into temptation. Need I say more. Well, with all the political advice for Christmas, my "lead us not into temptation" is sparking into flames.

Before the lockdown, it seems that we are free to binge.

I find this very dangerous, indeed. It seems like someone is saying that they are going to fill my chocoholic house with chocolate.

All my favourite bars and biscuits. I can enjoy them all for five days. There will be enough.

Then the giver seems to get a little uncertain. Actually, they are pretty certain that all this chocolate will be dangerous for my health. Diabetes. Obesity. Heart disease.

However, they don't want to disappoint me by taking it away. They did promise, after all. So, they are leaving it up to me. It might kill me, so be a big boy. Lead us not into temptation!

So, as we travel this "freedom" week before lockdown, I have been thinking about the fruit of the spirit.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes about this work of the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Now, that is what I need for the week ahead. Given these dangerous freedoms, love, patience and particularly self-control stop being some ethereal, spiritual, mystical fluffiness and become the very robust, deep-down characteristics that we all need if we are going to make it through this - please God - one and only coronavirus Christmas.

Boy, do I need that self-control in the week ahead. The temptation to make up for nine months of restrictions, knowing there is a six-week lockdown ahead, might be overwhelming. However, if we yield, then it will be hospitals that are overwhelmed.

So, for Christmas 2020, give me big basket full of the fruit of the Spirit. Fill my room with that, rather than chocolate, or anarchic self-indulgence.

Indeed, may we all gift the fruit of the Spirit to one another.

Rev Steve Stockman is minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast

Apt Bible readings

Some Scripture suggestions for the week ahead:

Monday: Galatians 5:13-15

Tuesday: Galatians 5:16-18

Wednesday: Galatians 5:19-21

Thursday: Galatians 5:22-26

Christmas Day: Galatians 4:1-7

Belfast Telegraph


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