My Dear Friends,
This has been, for many, a terrible year; and most of us will be glad to see the back of it. The Covid pandemic has brought lockdown, restrictions and loneliness. There have been job losses and business closures. Many have struggled with anxiety and fear. Some have suffered the stress of ill health and the death of a loved one. The whole experience has put a strain on our mental health and wellbeing.
I have recently been reading “The Book of Hopes”, edited by Katherine Rundell. This book is dedicated to the doctors, nurses, carers, porters, cleaners and everyone currently working in our hospitals. Rendell says of them: “You are the stuff that wild heroic tales are made of.” Her preface is entitled: “A very short note about Hope”; and she tells us that over the past few weeks she has been hunting for hope. Her book then goes on to give us a collection of little stories and reflections that give us a push towards hope. Katherine Rendell concludes that the real, true hope isn’t the promise that everything will be alright. Its a belief that the world has so many possibilities that giving up would be a mistake. We live in a universe shot through with the unexpected.
In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, at chapter 7 and verse 14, we read these astonishing words: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Again, in Matthew’s Gospel, at chapter 1 and verse 23, we read: “Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God is with us.” It is God’s presence with us, in power and love, that brings us the greatest hope of all.
Long ago, in the bleak mid-winter, the days were short, the nights were long. The weather was dark and dismal. It was cold; and nothing was growing. It was a miserable time of year. That is when our ancient ancestors celebrated the Festival of Light. Long before the time of Christ, people gathered evergreens at this time of year and decorated their homes. The evergreens were a sign that life goes on and hope returns and there is light in the darkness. They were a promise, hope, reminder, and reassurance that, despite the darkness, Spring would come again with its new life.
Still today, we put up our decorations and light our candles. These baubles and sparkles cheer us up and make us happy. They are signs of Hope for the future. They are a proclamation of our faith. At Christmas we celebrate the Birth of Christ who came to show us what God is like; and to tell us of His love and care for us; and to assure us that, in all the circumstances of life, God is with us. Truly, we live in a universe shot through with the unexpected. And most certainly, the world has so many possibilities.
Liz joins me in wishing you a Happy Christmas and God’s richest blessing in the New Year.
Christmas Services:There will be no Christmas Eve Service this year; but our Christmas Morning Service will be held in the Church at 10.15am on Christmas Day.