Birthdays and anniversaries mean that New Year makes me think of my parents. Dad would have been 100 this year and they both died 25 years ago. As loving parents to their children, they were typical of their era in that they seemed to struggle to express their love to each other. At points, I wondered whether she still loved him but given how she reacted when dad was in his last few days, it was clear that mum loved him very much. But I can’t say that I ever heard them say ‘I love you’.

There’s one oft repeated scene in which mum would complain that he never gave her flowers. It always earned the riposte of ‘I bring you lovely chrysanthemums from the allotment’. Having three children to bring up, money was always tight but mum clearly longed for a simple, reckless expression of unrestrained love. It reminded me of work colleagues who would greet Valentine’s Day with ‘I better get her something, I suppose. I’ll drop into the service station on the way home’.

Paul writes of God as Husband and the church as the Bride. The Song of Songs describes our relationship with God as that of the Beloved to the Lover. Worship isn’t about what we bring but how we bring it. Consider Cain and Abel. Cain brought the best of the work of his hands and it was not accepted. Abel brought the best as a sacrifice, which was acceptable. Our labour can’t bring us favour with God; our love for God can and should spill out in reckless thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                                 Jeff Claxton