Victory can be a strange friend. Who doesn’t want to be victorious? I have won a few things in my time. The odd singing competition, a go-kart race, a football trophy. I enjoyed each one. However, the aftermath is interesting. Am I defined by those victories? How do I handle the next time I am not victorious? What do I do with the anticlimax afterwards?

As of the day of writing, yesterday was VE day. In fact, the 75th anniversary. Bunting and flags adorned many houses on the street around us. Yesterday, neighbours were having tea and cake in the front gardens talking to each other with appropriate social distancing. One young girl was having her own tea party on the front lawn dressed as the Queen. Very cute!

My parents are still alive and remember the celebrations. Our neighbour Jan lives opposite us. She is 91 years old. VE day and the celebrations which followed are indelibly marked in her memory. In so many ways victory defined not only that generation, but one which came after it – mine. I was born 16 years after that day. I grew up in the aftermath, or perhaps the afterglow of the victory, but also the challenge of rebuilding and redefining who we were as a nation. It could well be said that the struggle continues even today.

Now is not the time or place to go into an analysis of the socio-political ramifications of the war. Instead, let’s reflect for a few moments on the victory which comes to all of us who have come to know Jesus Christ. We have the ultimate victory. Where does it come from?

“….thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV11)

It comes from God himself. Now this is a healthy origin for our victory. In other words, I didn’t manufacture this victory myself. It depended upon, and was beautifully gifted to me by a generous God. If victory is going to remain meaningful, it will do so because we recognise it as a gift. Does that mean I have no part to play?

“To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7 NIV11)

The word for victory here is ‘nikaō’ containing not only the traditional concept of victory, but also that of prevailing and overcoming. One aspect to our continued experience of victory in Jesus is that we persevere. Persevere in humility.

Penny and I watched the BBC celebrations on television last night. The one hour special which preceded the Queen’s speech was, to my mind, a healthy balance of celebration, soberness and gratitude. Jingoism was muted. Thankfulness was the tone. Whatever our position on the rights or wrongs of waging war, it must always be right to reflect on the heroism and sacrifice of the people to whom we owe our freedoms and opportunities.

In the same way, we take communion every week as a catalyst to gratitude. A reminder that our freedom in Christ was bought at a price. In such a reminder is not creating us any despondency or guilt. Instead, it refreshes our thankfulness.

By the end of the programme last night my wife and I were both tearful. I pray that by the end of communion on Sunday, I might go the same. A tear- induced gratitude.

God bless, Malcolm