Ashbourne News Telegraph - - OPINIONS & LETTERS - By Rev Dun­can Bal­lard Priest in charge, St Oswald’s Church

THERE’S noth­ing in­spir­ing about clear­ing up after Christ­mas re­ally, is there? Right now the tree nee­dles are drop­ping, the re­main­der of the Christ­mas cake is droop­ing, new toys have run out of bat­ter­ies, the sales have been picked over, leav­ing only odd sizes and hideous colours – and I’m sick of tur­key!

One year I went into the garage to fetch my tool­box in the week after Christ­mas was over, and dis­cov­ered where we had thrown all the boxes and pack­ag­ing to get it out of sight. As I moved the boxes out of the way, some­thing caught my eye ... or rather my ear!

In the cor­ner of an ap­par­ently empty box I could hear a rat­tle. Open­ing the flap, I dis­cov­ered a neatly wrapped par­cel, all done up in Christ­mas paper. We had ob­vi­ously thrown it out with the rub­bish.

In a bid to tidy up, it seems we had over­done it. I car­ried my un­ex­pected prize back into the house and made some­body’s day. A child got a bonus toy and some­one else got a very late thank-you let­ter!

Of course you can prob­a­bly guess that from time to time when I go into the garage now, I shake ev­ery ap­par­ently empty box - just in case!

I sup­pose it’s a bit sad re­ally - but I just can’t help my­self. I’ve never found any­thing, but it doesn’t stop me look­ing.

To find some hid­den gem in amongst the old boxes would re­ally make my day. A lit­tle ex­tra treat would come in very handy - es­pe­cially on a dull De­cem­ber day when not much is hap­pen­ing.

So 2018 has gone. None of us can tell what sur­prises lie in store for next year. If we could, they wouldn’t be sur­prises, would they?

One of the great things about hav­ing faith is that you live in a per­ma­nent state of ex­pec­ta­tion. That’s what faith is all about.

The Bi­ble calls it be­ing “sure of things we hope for, and cer­tain of things we can­not see.” With faith you em­bark on each day with the pos­si­bil­ity that God might take you by sur­prise.

This might hap­pen in any num­ber of ways – from meet­ing a per­son in need, to re­ceiv­ing a visit from an old friend or hear­ing a snatch of in­spir­ing mu­sic.

God can speak to us through all these things, es­pe­cially when we least ex­pect it. And when he does, it’s a bit like my hid­den present in the garage - a re­minder that some­body some­where cares about you, even if you hadn’t no­ticed.

By about now, any left­over tur­key has lost its ap­peal.

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