One Saturday evening in October, just over two years ago, we held a worship event for our young people at Holland Road. We turned the music up and the lights down and set the young people free to worship in their own way. It was a great success, and the beginning of an exciting journey.
That one-off event became Encounter, our twice-a-month Sunday night event where our heart is for young people, as well as anyone else who wants to join us to encounter God for themselves. It gets bigger and better every time, and we recently acquired a haze machine! But most importantly, over the past months there’s been an amazing sense of freedom – of meeting with God, of celebrating, of looking at the Bible together, and even doing a conga line.
One of the things we’ve been talking about a lot at Encounter is joy. As we approach Christmas, ‘joy’ is a word we hear all over the place. In fact, there’s so much pressure to have a ‘merry’ Christmas, that we actually end up more stressed than joyful!
As we’ve explored this theme of joy, we’ve found that our struggle is often because we’re looking for joy in the wrong places. This is particularly hard at Christmas, when it’s all about stuff, people’s expectations, and doing it right. So we pour everything into those things, picturing that perfect Christmas from the John Lewis advert, trusting that that will bring us joy. But trouble comes when the turkey gets burnt or you don’t get the present you really wanted… Anxiety begins to creep in, and anxiety is like anti-joy.
So what can we do? Well, at Encounter we’ve been learning that the only place we can find true, lasting joy is through God. He never changes or lets us down. He created us to enjoy Him! And so we looked at this wonderful verse: “In Your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). We discovered that actually, Jesus coming to earth as a baby, which we celebrate at Christmas, was so we could have a relationship with God – so we could be in His presence and find joy, and hope. Another name for Jesus is ‘Emmanuel’, which means ‘God with us’.
This is why we love to spend time worshipping God at Encounter. In fact, it’s why we’re called Encounter in the first place! Our deepest desire is to spend time really focussing on Him – who He is, what He’s done for us, who we are in Him – and experiencing that joy in His presence. We believe He wants to meet with us; He made that clear the very first Christmas!
So this Christmas, amidst the busyness and the pressure, take some time out to encounter God. You might just find real, lasting joy.
Encounter is on the second and fourth Sunday of every month, 6.15-8.00pm, starting again on January 11th. You can listen to previous Encounter talks at hrbc.org.uk/media/talks.