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Christmas reflections

Even though the fig trees have no fruit and no grapes grow on the vines, even though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no corn, even though the sheep all die and the cattle stalls are empty, I will still be joyful and glad, because the LORD God is my saviour.
Habakkuk 3.17–18, GNB

When I was a teenager growing up through my church's youth group, we used to sing worship songs – more enthusiastically than tunefully, if I'm honest. One of them ran, ‘Though the fig tree do not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vine/Though the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food/Yet I will rejoice in the LORD ...’

It went with a beat and we sang it with gusto, and I don't think I realised that it was lifted from Habbakuk 3.17–18. In fact, I don't remember thinking about the words at all. But what's being talked about is dreadful, especially at a time when most people lived by subsistence farming and were only one harvest away from starvation.

The prophet has a vision of complete devastation – there is no food. And yet, he says, ‘I will rejoice in the LORD’. How about that for faith?

Celebration when things are going well is right and good and normal. But God's people celebrate his goodness even when they aren't.

Author: Mark Woods, 24 December 2021 (Last updated: 13 January 2022)

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