Letter to parishioners, 31 December 2020

Read a letter from Revd Stephen reflecting on the past year and looking to 2021

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

This is almost the fiftieth Letter to Parishioners that I have written since the first one on 20 March 2020. Over the last forty weeks we have all experienced so many things that have challenged our notions of normality. In fact, our lives have been turned upside down and inside out. We have all had to re-think how we approach life in a world where we have suddenly had to assume the responsibility of keeping both ourselves and others as safe as possible. For some this has been a year of great sadness; for some it has been a time of great confusion; for all of us it has been a time of uncertainty. Then, as we emerge from the few days which begin the great ecclesiastical season of Christmas, we find that the turning of the year is not bringing relief but different kinds of unpredictability and bewilderment. Despite all of this I would suggest that all is not negative and a matter of despair; all is not dark and without hope. The world has just celebrated the coming into this world of God’s own light, our Saviour Jesus Christ. It is true that we could not celebrate that great event in the ‘usual’ way, but the great hope and light of Christmas still dawned in this world. Perhaps we need to reflect on how often we have ignored that aspect of Christmas in years past as we give thanks that the hope that we have in Jesus Christ is still with us.

As we leave 2020 and step into 2021 I want to offer you some words of comfort from scripture. Of course, there are many such phrases that could be offered but here are three verses that I hope may offer you consolation and a route map as you journey through the coming days:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.                                                                                                  

Jeremiah 29:11

My child, be attentive to my words; incline you ears to my sayings, do not let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.

Proverbs 4:20-22

Take action, for it is your duty, and we are with you; be strong and do it.                        

Ezra 10:4

These verses have all offered me comfort at different points in my journey through 2020. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God created us in his own image and wants us to flourish as we journey through our mortal lives, no matter what challenges we may have to face. The wisdom of the book of Proverbs urges us to remain faithful in our reading of scripture and in our life of prayer. Finally, the prophet Ezra tells us not to waste our time on earth but to do what we can for the good of the world. Jesus summed all this up when he reminded us of the two greatest commandments:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind … and … You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Matthew 22:37,39

We all hope and pray that 2021 may bring us relief from the stress and confusion of 2020. However, I also hope and pray that, no matter what restrictions may be imposed upon us, we may remain faithful to God’s call in our life, that we may study scripture and pray, that we may recognize God’s call to action and that we may step into the new year in faith and joy.

Wishing you every blessing as we begin a New Year.

May the joy and the peace of the Christ-child be with you all.

Revd Stephen