Dear Friends, January 2021
Here’s to HOPE!
There’s no getting around it, 2020 was one of the most difficult, challenging and pain-filled years in virtually everyone’s living memory, due to the truly unprecedented situation caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and experienced throughout the world. The daily media reports and regular Covid-19 updates from the Government and medical experts have made us all critically aware of the statistics which confirm how significantly this deadly virus has altered our daily lives and livelihoods – and I haven’t the heart to share them again here!
And yet, when we look back over this past year, amidst all of the anxieties and difficulties, there were always some ‘signs of hope’ which could be discerned, giving strength to persevere and carry on. Some examples which come to mind:
· the astounding efforts of our NHS in providing life-saving healthcare for tens of thousands of patients suffering from Covid, as well as ‘key workers’ in many sectors who continued to help us all to have the vital provisions and services we needed during the toughest of times (the nation-wide ‘clapping for carers’ not only conveyed our sincere appreciation for the risks they themselves were taking in order to serve others, but also was a sign of hope in the power of resilience, compassion and sacrificial service to meet and transform this pandemic)
· the re-discovery of the importance of ‘community’, as neighbours reached out to assist those near them; as significant numbers of volunteers came forward to help Coronavirus Support Groups to deliver food, medicines, and emotional support to those who were ill, self-isolating or lonely; as people creatively and enthusiastically raised funds to support the NHS and others in need, and generously supported local Food Banks to help unprecedented numbers of families in need;
· the world-wide race to create effective vaccines to offer protection against the life-threatening aspects of the virus, and to help control and curb its spread in due course (the sheer ingenuity, dedication and determination of the scientific community to accomplish this in a such a short time frame has been a continuing source of inspiration and indeed hope for us all!)
As we look back over the past year to remember and give thanks for the positive,
hope-full experiences which brought much welcomed ‘light to lighten our darkness’,
I believe it’s also crucially important for us to recognise God’s own presence and power at work in this situation – for God is indeed the very source of the hope which we long for, as we pray and work for his loving purposes and vision for our world to be realised. This is beautifully reflected in some of the Church’s beloved hymns:
“All my hope on God is founded, he doth still my trust renew;
me through change and chance he guideth, only good and only true…..”
“O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come;
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.”
We’ve recently celebrated Christmas….although that experience was radically different this year for most of us because of Covid tier restrictions, it certainly was NOT the case that ‘Christmas is cancelled!’ as some headlines lamented – for the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus the Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man, Emmanuel (God with us) wonderfully reminds us that the very presence of God’s own powerful love and light is indeed with us even in the darkest moments of our existence, which gives genuine, constant, dependable hope for the renewal of our world.
As we begin 2021 with our hopes for a much improved New Year through the production and rolling out of Covid-19 vaccines, and the deep longing for a daily life with far fewer restrictions and much more ‘normality’, we begin a new season of the church year - Epiphany – which reminds us that the light of God’s loving presence which came to us all in Jesus’ birth, continues to shine in the midst of the challenges and anxieties we still face, and God indeed calls each of us to be ‘portals’ of that light through which His hope can shine through to others! This is wonderfully captured in words from the much loved hymn by Graham Kendrick, Shine Jesus Shine:
“Lord, the light of your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness, shining;
Jesus, Light of the World, shine upon us…..
As we gaze on your kingly brightness, so our faces display your likeness,
ever changing from glory to glory; mirrored here, may our lives tell your story….”
May each of us allow God to shine the light of his powerful love and hope through the way we live our Christian faith in our daily lives in 2021 – with my prayers and blessings to you all for a very happy, healthy, hope-full New Year!