Dear Friends, Happy New Year!
No, I haven’t quite lost the plot. This magazine issue covers two New Years – the new Church year, beginning on Advent Sunday 2nd December, and the new calendar year on 1st January. Both offer us the opportunity to take stock, to review and to look ahead.
Advent is a time of preparation. Over the four Sundays, we prepare our own hearts to welcome the new-born Jesus. We do this by looking back at the way God was at work over centuries, preparing the world for this birth: in the prophets, who spoke of the Messiah to come; in Zechariah and Elizabeth, whose son John would pave the way for the adult Jesus; in Simeon and Anna, readying them to recognise salvation in a tiny baby; and of course in Mary herself. We think of God sowing seeds in the lives of people who would never live to see Jesus grow up.
Looking back reminds us of the immense care God has for the world and for us, which in turn gives us hope and strength to look forward. The country might be in turmoil, and we may have our own concerns over illness or other difficulty, but God has been there before. Advent allows us to face our fears in faith and trust.
At the end of Advent, of course, is Christmas. I’m delighted that Esmé is once again able to lead the service on Christmas Day. Before that, we have the Toy and Gift service on 9th December and the Carol Service on the 16th. Do come, and bring your friends – even people who rarely if ever come to church can feel drawn to the sacred at this time.
The waiting of Advent and the celebration of Christmas set us up for the calendar New Year on 1st January. The tradition around this is to make New Year resolutions, a promise to ourselves to make changes that will improve our lives. There’s nothing wrong in wanting to be healthier, or whatever. But I’d like to suggest that for 2019, instead of thinking about our own lives, we might use New Year to think of the seeds we could sow in the lives of others. What words, what actions, might we use to sow seeds of the kingdom? Even if we never live to see those seeds growing and bearing fruit.
Revd Sue McCoan