As I’m writing this letter, the signs in the country are more optimistic than they have been for some time. A number of possible vaccines for coronavirus are on the horizon, lockdown 2 is coming to an end and there are possibilities of limited celebrations at Christmas. People are beginning to talk in terms of hope rather than despair.
As we move into 2021 there will be many people who are far from hopeful. People are still recovering from the long term effects of coronavirus and wondering whether their lives will ever be able to return to what they used to be, others now see the world as a scary place and are worried about venturing out into public places, many are worried about loss of employment, income and other related matters.
Hope and despair, the two sides of the coin and yet we as the Church are called to reach out to people experiencing all the range of emotions. It’s one of the great challenges of ministry. I’ve often thought that there can be few other roles where you can be taking an assembly full of expectant children and go on from that to conduct a funeral or vice versa and to be expected to react appropriately in both situations.
As the churches and the world begin to open up again, we will need to be aware of a whole variety of emotions and needs and to try to respond to them. But we do it knowing that we are not alone. Between my writing this and the beginning of the plan we will have celebrated Christmas. We might not have been able to do it in any way we would consider as normal but the message will be the same as it has always been, God coming and dwelling among his people and in doing that experiencing the whole range of emotions that life has to offer.
And that is where our message of hope for the world comes from. It’s not just a vague hope that things might change for the better. It’s the story of Immanuel, God with us, in the good and the difficult times of life. So my prayer for 2021 is that whatever happens we will know and be able to share the love and the presence of God in our lives with those around us.