Real Lives – Andy

I don’t know what you think of when you think about Christmas, whether it is a season of the year you look forward to with great excitement, or one you look forward to with dread and perhaps even would rather we just skipped it.

For me and our family we look forward to the Christmas season with real excitement, cheesy Christmas movies (usually started in October), decorating the Christmas tree (on the 1st December), buying gifts for people, singing Christmas carols, going to all kinds of Christmas events (plays, markets, visit to Santa).

Whilst we look forward to all these wonderful things, the reason we are so excited about Christmas is because in amongst the darkness and cold of the winter, we celebrate the most amazing, life changing and transforming gift this world has ever and will ever receive, the gift of Jesus and the salvation he brings through his death and resurrection. Whilst this gift has been made available to all of us – we are reminded particularly at Christmas, just as with gifts we may receive from others this Christmas time, it is no good just being given a gift, we need to open it and accept it. And it is as we open and accept this gift, we discover the real joy and hope we can have, even in the darkness that’s so often around us. For me this all happened about 33 years ago when I was just 6.

It is no good just being given a gift, we need to open it and accept it

I grew up in a Christian Family, always going to church and knowing the bible stories. However, at the age of 6 God, by his grace helped me to realise that just going along to church, knowing the bible stories and being raised in a Christian family wasn’t going to deal with my sin and the consequences of it. Having spent some time with my pastor who explained this to me, I realised that I was naturally sinful and wanted to live my way and not God’s way and that as a result if I was to die, I wouldn’t be with God forever. I realised that God had given the most amazing gift, a gift that mean I could be forgiven and made right with God, and have a sure and certain hope of being with him forever one day. And so at the age of 6 I gave my life to Jesus.

I didn’t fully understand everything at the age of 6 but I knew enough to know I needed to accept the gift that God was holding out to me in Jesus.

I knew enough to know I needed to accept the gift that God was holding out to me in Jesus.

Having gone through school and enjoyed sport growing up, in 2004 I went into Sports Development and then after a few years into leisure management. In 2010, having been involved in serving in youth and children’s work since the age of 14 I left my career in the leisure industry and set out into full time youth and children’s ministry, where I have been working and serving ever since, first in Reading, then in Cranleigh, Surrey and now here in Cheltenham.

Life hasn’t always been easy, it’s had it’s fair share of difficulties along the way of various kinds, especially over the past few years with COVID. I don’t know about you but I like to be organised, to know what’s happening, to be able to plan, I guess you might say to be in control of what’s happening. Over the past few years that’s been taken away, having made plans for one thing and all of a sudden, we’re back in a Lockdown, or having to isolate and things have had to change. Suddenly we can’t see our friends, or our family and things are outside our control, our plans no longer seem to matter or be that important. It’s reminded me that actually I’m not in control, I can’t be in control and that’s ok – in fact that’s the best way. The awesome thing is that I don’t need to worry because I know who is in control and who does have a plan and that is God, the Creator of the universe and my heavenly Father. And all that is possible because of Jesus, the greatest gift. Even in the darkness and uncertainty, because of Jesus I can say “Hallelujah, praise the one who set me free, Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me, You have broken every chain, There's salvation in your name, Jesus Christ, my living hope”

My prayer this Christmas time is that you will open and accept the gift that is Jesus.

My prayer this Christmas time is that you will open and accept the gift that is Jesus and what he has done for you on the cross and through his resurrection, and that through him you will know, perhaps for the first time true forgiveness and a living hope and joy that will last for all eternity.

Your response?

If you want to think more about what Christmas should mean, and how to trust in Jesus, we have two resources that might help.  The first is a 'help yourself' resource called The Four Points.  On this website you can listen to four short videos which tell you more about how to come to know Jesus as your saviour.  The second is a course you can join - Hope Explored.