What a fantastic weekend it’s been in York! I’m so honoured to be Vicar of such a fantastic church as The Belfrey!! Saturday’s Thank God it’s Christmas cafe was great, with a live nativity, mini-carol services every half hour, a Christmas jazz band, gallons of coffee and tea and acres of cake served by a smiling team as we wished everyone a happy Christmas, chatted with all sorts of people and pointed to the birth of the Saviour. And then last night nearly two thousand gathered in York Minster for our Christmas Carol Service. It included lovely carols, brilliant theatre from Riding Lights, and an inspiring and challenging message from Mick Woodhead. It’s been a really wonderful couple of days.

But none of it just happened. It all involved much planning, preparation and prayer. And whilst all this was good and worth-while, let’s be honest – it was hard work. This morning there are lots of people waking up rather tired. Elated and enthused and encouraged. But tired.

Because doing something well involves hard work. It involves giving out. Giving of yourself. Giving your best. It’s usually emotionally and often physically draining. It is hard work.

I’ve been looking again at the stories in Luke and Matthew and have noticed that it was no different the first Advent. Most of those people involved in God’s plans found it hard work. Don’t get me wrong, it was good and rewarding. But hard work.

God’s purposes that first Advent involved:
– an old lady having to bear the tiredness of pregnancy, the pain and struggle of labour, and then all the subsequent giving out of a new mum. It was hard work for Elizabeth.
– an old man losing the ability to speak for nine months, and learning how to compensate with hand gestures and writing tablets. It was hard work for Zechariah.
– much travelling in an age with no motor vehicles. So pregnant Mary journeys from Nazareth up-hill into Judea to visit her cousin. She and Joseph later travel to Bethlehem for a census. Wise men come thousands of miles to witness the new king. And the new parents have to travel to Jerusalem to fulfil birthing ceremonies. For all these people and more, it was hard work.
– Simeon and Anna, who met the family and new baby in the temple in Jerusalem, had been waiting for years and years for that one day. Luke tells us that Anna ‘was very old and had never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying’ (2:37). Their waiting had involved much hard work.

Do you see? It really was hard work. But it was worth it, because of the outcome. Because through their labour, combined with their prayers, God did amazing things.

That’s why followers of Jesus work hard in their service to the master. (They also rest hard too, so they work from rest rather than rest from world. We mustn’t forget that, otherwise we burn out. Nevertheless, let’s not miss the hard work).

With so many labour-saving devices around us (for which we’re grateful) we hear less these days about the importance of working hard. We hear quite a lot about working smart – and we must do that, being efficient and doing the right things effectively – but Thomas A Edison was still right when he said that ‘The reason a lot of people do not recognise opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.’

Don’t let hard work put you off a God-given opportunity coming your way. When God is at work, we’re called to join in. He will strengthen you for the task, by his Spirit, if you ask him. And it will be satisfying and rewarding. But believe me, it will involve hard work.

Is there some hard-work God is calling you to at the moment? Have you asked for his help and strength? Are you getting enough rest?