During my morning prayer this week I was introduced to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Ich habe genug.” (I have enough.) It was written for the feast of the purification of Mary and based on the encounter that Mary and Joseph had with Simeon. Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and proclaims that he can now rest in peace for his eyes have seen the God’s salvation. “I have enough, I need nothing more from life.”
In Genesis chapter 33 we have the fabulous scene where after many long years Jacob and Esau are reconciled. Jacob is feeling guilty and he has brought many carts full of expensive trinkets to give to his brother. But Esau responds:
“I have enough. Keep what you have, Brother.” I am very conscious as I reflect on this that I am probably presenting a world-view that simply doesn’t apply to everyone – there ARE so many people who absolutely DO NOT have enough, and I hope that nothing I say in what follows will give the impression that I am not aware of that – but in the lead-up to Christmas I am always struck by the fact that I DO have enough and that I don’t really need more STUFF, even if I think I do. Partly this is because year by year I find it ever harder to write my Christmas list so that my long-suffering family don’t have to make wild-guesses in the dark – but I know they struggle too. I am blessed with children who have never been grasping or acquisitive and have always been very modest with their Christmas lists. This year I am increasingly saddened by Advent calendars and how the idea has been gleefully grasped as a commercial opportunity, so that we cannot even retreat into Advent away from Christmas to escape the increasingly mad dash for more STUFF.
There is a rare whiskies advent calendar that costs £10,000! A few years ago now (and used as the basis of some of my Christmas sermons last year!) George Monbiot wrote a searingly brutal, yet honest piece about the accumulation of STUFF – you can read it here. It only gets more true as each year passes. Is knowing I have enough a gift? If so, I think it might be called the gift of contentment.
Lord, help me discover that gift of contentment.
Why not pray that short prayer for yourself as you listen to “Ich Habe Genug”…