The news as I write does not make for wonderful reading. “When does it ever?” some would say. It’s the economic situation that particularly comes to mind and somehow the darker mornings as winter approaches only add to the gloom.
It’s at such times that you look for signs of hope – they are there! Governments seem to be taking positive steps to address the situation rather than just wringing hands helplessly. The election in the United States is over and holds out the possibility of a new dawn with Barack Obama having been elected on a ticket for change. As we enter December, thoughts turn to Christmas and a New Year which is an open book, with all sorts of opportunities
For many, Advent and Christmas are times to sing well-loved hymns and carols which often speak of the hope that Jesus will bring. His way is one of love and peace, his desire that people will pull together. I cannot help but think how different relationships might be in many places in a troubled world were more people to live by such principles.
At the same time, it is no good just saying wistfully, ‘if only’. God in Jesus works through people and the challenge to all is about what we personally or with others can do to bring hope to people. This year of 2008 saw a Christian initiative called Hope08. It is hoped by the organisers that anything started will continue over onto 2009 and subsequent years. It would be my hope that if no fresh initiative was taken under this banner then 2009 will offer another chance. The idea was based round 5 high points of activity that tie in with the Christian calendar:
· Fresh Hope, from January to Easter, might be an opportunity for helping people from the local community by running lifestyle courses and offering support to people.
· The Big Hope celebrates Easter.
· Hope where you live (around Pentecost time – next year May 31st). In 2008 Churches in the UK pledged to bring 1 million hours of kind deeds to people in their communities – what kind deeds could we do to help others?
· Hope Explored – the Autumn could be a time to explore Christianity more fully.
· The Gift of Hope at Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus and is perhaps a time to invite more people to hear the good news.
If you are reading this letter and had no particular plans for coming to church at Christmas, I would want to invite you and promise you will be very welcome.
Wishing you every blessing for Christmas and the New Year,
With much love,
Your Minister and friend,