With the dawning of a New Year (and a new decade) this month, it's
a time of looking back and looking forward. Certainly, this time last year, I had no idea that during 2019 I would find a
new job that I felt God was leading me to. Having accepted the position in July as incumbent of St Mary's, Prestwich,
I fully expected to move there to start my ministry either just before or just after Advent. As we enter 2020 it's somewhat
frustrating for many people still not having a definite staring date (or finishing date here at St Martin's) although
I hope in the next few weeks that there may be some clarity about this.
In the meantime I keep thinking about
some words from the hymn Peace, perfect peace by Bishop E H Bickersteth,
Peace, perfect peace,
our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.
No matter how uncertain
we end - or start - a year, this truth is a vital one for Christians to acknowledge. Christ is reigning, in the universe and
in our hearts, and present in all our certainties and uncertainties. And he is not some distant king, either geographically
or relationally: he knows us as beloved sons and daughters. He walks with us into the beginning of each new day, each new
year, each new chapter, of our lives. In this I take not only comfort but also courage, for he will not desert me or betray
me. The future might be unknown - in all sorts of ways - but Jesus' constant love and companionship is certain. Which
is a great comfort to me in this time of change - and should be to all of us as we look ahead to whatever the next chapter
of life at St Martin's, in our country regarding Brexit, and in our own individual lives, might bring.
the future might be ‘all unknown', the past year is worth reflecting on at this point in the calendar.
There will have been high points and low points for all of us, with health issues, bereavements and births, changes in our
careers or our financial situations, celebrations and disasters. How have they shaped and changed us during the past twelve
months? Are there things which are still causing us sadness, pain or frustration? How are we coping with these things, and
dealing with them? And how much have we opened our hearts to God's healing and peace, forgiveness and love? I know when
life gets pressured or stressful it's not always easy to put God first in our thoughts and our hearts. Yet, he is the
one who longs for us to know his company and his power. As we begin 2020, let us make it one of our resolutions that we try
and spend a little more time in prayer, waiting upon God, in all the vagaries of life.
The first two Sundays
of the year will offer to us very vivid images to ponder. On 5th January we will celebrate Epiphany, and ponder
what it means to see the Wise Men bend in adoration before the infant Christ after the long journey they have made. All
of our journeys, whether geographically or emotionally long or short, lead us to the side of Christ. How do we greet him?
How do we respond to being in his presence?
Then, on 12th January we will hear of the Baptism of
Christ, at the hands of John the Baptist in the Jordan river. During the 10.15am Eucharist those present will be called upon
to renew their baptism promises, reflecting upon how faithful and committed to Christ we are. These words will provide a further
imperative to review our faith as we move into the New Year.
I know not everyone will be able to be in church
on 12th, and not everyone who is will be at the 10.15am Eucharist. So here are the words said in the renewal of
baptismal faith for us all to reflect upon at home.
Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and
in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting
and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim
by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all people, loving
your neighbour as yourself?
Will you recognise Christ's authority over human society,
by prayer for the world and its leaders, by defending the weak,
and by seeking peace and justice?
All respond With the help of God, I will.
With my prayers
for a blessed 2020,