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Unexpected Joy (30-12-22)

Follow The Star: An Invitation to Unexpected Joy

Today's reflection is written by Matt Woodcock, minister in York, author and regular contributor to Radio 2 pause for thought


Our twin girls were born over Christmas. I love sharing with them, despite their embarrassed protests, our laughter and struggle in welcoming them into the world.

It was my life's most unexpected joy moment, just ahead of the time York City beat Man United 3-0 in the cup. We were originally told that us having kids would be virtually impossible. Yet years later we found ourselves staring aghast at a hospital monitor, seeing a heartbeat flash up on screen, and then another one. Months later we were changing nappies, a somewhat less joyful experience.

I've discovered that the journey of life and faith is always full of the unexpected. Navigating those times and moments often takes great trust and courage. And for me a faith to cling on to.

Bible Reading: Genesis 18:1-2, 9-14

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. As he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day he looked up and saw three men standing near him.

They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ and he said, ‘There in the tent’. Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age. It had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women, so Sarah laughed to herself saying, ‘After I have grown old and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure? The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At a set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.


In today's reading, the elderly Sarah reacts to the seemingly impossible news of her impending motherhood with laughs of shocked disbelief. It's the bible's ultimate ‘You can't be serious!’ moment. Yet her fleeting laughter soon turns a lasting joy when God's unexpected promise was beautifully fulfilled.

From Mary's angelic visitation to the twists-and-turns journey of the wise men, the Christmas story is full of surprises. A reminder that we follow a God who invites the most unlikely people to trust and follow him. To see hope and possibility when all seems lost.

It's on walking this narrow path of the often unexpected, that we find our deepest joy in God. And, in my experience, plenty of laughter along the way.


Jesus invites us all to a life all expected joy and adventure. Where might he be calling you so trust him, however surprising or implausible it might seem?


Generous God of the unexpected, fill us with joy and laughter in abundance.

Help us to trust your purposes for our lives


Joy to the world

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