At the time of writing, it is still the period of Advent. Preparations are underway for Christmas celebrations in our “bubbles”. Covid-19 remains a concern, but the vaccine has arrived in the country. Brexit talks are causing anxieties for many people. By the time you read this, we will no longer be part of the EU. By the time you read this, hundreds or thousands of people may be vaccinated. By the time you read this, our many worries and fears for the future may already be something of the past.
As we go into the new year, I would like us to focus on the word Hope. Admittedly, it is difficult to plan and think positively of the future. We have learned from 2020 that plans can be disrupted. This time last year, we did not know the challenges we would face. Should we approach this new year with apprehension or with hope for the future?
God sent Jesus to Earth as a gift of hope, which we celebrate each year on Christmas day. The shepherds and wise men that came to worship the child were full of hope, but we must not forget the confusion and mayhem this hope also caused. “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Matthew 2:3) Herod feared for his position as king, and Jerusalem feared the changes this baby, this “hope”, would bring.
Hope manifests in many different ways. For some, it is a feeling, for others, it involves major changes. Being afraid of change prevents hope from becoming a reality. Some people are hopeful this vaccine will work, others fear it. By the time you read this, we may see evidence of the vaccine working, or we may not. There could be other vaccines in circulation, or there may not. Brexit may have gone smoothly, or it may not. We cannot predict these things, but we can hope and trust in God and know that, no matter what, we are loved beyond our comprehension.
So, as we go into this new year, look for signs of hope. Hope is not necessarily something huge, Jesus was only a baby, after all, but hope may appear in the most mundane of places: a smile from a stranger, a budding flower, blossom on trees, an act of random kindness. We do not know what this year will bring, but we can embrace the small glimmers of hope that prove life goes on and that God is always with us.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon