We approach the end of Advent, the weeks where we have watched and waited. Perhaps our attention has been more on watching and waiting for news on Covid, the vaccine, tier levels, Brexit, how we can spend Christmas ... and we continue to pray for our government for the leadership and communication we need as a nation to continue to navigate our way.
I was reminded recently of a verse in the well known passage of Isaiah that we read every year at Christmas. It's Isaiah 9 verse 6: "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace".
I wonder if, like me, you sometimes miss the middle sentence "the government will be on his shoulders"? For me, it's an important reminder of God's sovereignty, authority and ability to take all of my concerns, fears, burdens, even impatience (!). This precious child, God amongst us, is our starting point and end destination when we seek truth and power, when we truly know what it is to be loved and connected.
This doesn't deny our part in taking responsibility, nor does it deny the reality of our times of lament, but I think it does remind us of the wider horizon and the bigger story, which might just give us the courage to pray to the one on whose shoulders governance rests "thy will be done Lord".
This is the last weekly message of 2020: it has been a privilege to write to you each week.
I cannot begin to express the depth of gratitude I have for you as a church community, and how honoured I am to serve this parish. The generous response to the Foodhub, culminating in the Christmas Hamper gifts that will go out next week is incredible. The desire and willingness to keep connecting with each other, showing love and fellowship in new ways as well as old, is inspirational. The honesty in which some of you have shared your stories of this year is humbling. The practical ways in which you have responded to necessary risk assessments and restrictions with such good cheer is wonderful.
And of course this weekend, for those who are able to access it, the Carol service will be streamed at 6pm, when what feels like a miraculous learning experience will culminate in a beautiful act of worship.
As we have lit the Advent candle wreath each week, I have offered a prayer that begins "We are God's people". The characteristics of God that I see lived out in this community are real and powerful.
I pray constantly for you, for your ongoing resilience, faithfulness and sure and certain knowledge that you are beloved by God.
With my love and good wishes for you at Christmas, and always