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Looking forward (December 2020/January 2021)

Dear Friends

I write this looking ahead to Advent, Christmas and the New Year. I write it, inevitably, looking back upon the year that is passing. What a time! It is in the looking ahead that I want to dwell with you. I suspect there is no shortage of remembering what 2020 has brought our way collectively and within our own families and lives. What of looking forwards?

We’re entering the seasons when Christians across centuries have prepared to welcome a baby born into a world as uncertain and unpredictable as any world we know. And we will dare to claim, as Christians always have, that this baby was truly God and truly one with us. Which means that the heart of this season places God entering in to the risky business of letting life happen. There’s no shortcut to growing up for Jesus. It takes time, perhaps 30 years, before the time is right and his public ministry begins.

So Christmas reveals God, who is beyond time and space, willingly, lovingly, delightedly, entering in to all of the limitations of time and space. That’s the risk and wonder of the Incarnation; of God become one of us. And looking ahead is woven into the story. Jesus will teach and heal and work his wonders. Crowds will follow him. But death will stalk him and the cross is waiting. Yet even in the seeming end of the story we know a new beginning nestles, waiting for the sun to shine on a tomb now empty in a garden. The looking forwards continues right into our moment as God works and as God waits for us to join in with that work. Our lives become part of ‘thy kingdom come...’

As 2020 turns towards 2021, I wonder what we look forward to? We’ll each have our lists of hopes and dreams. We probably also have our dread and our fears. Who would have thought, at the end of November 2019, that 2020 would be the year it has been? Life’s unpredictability and fragility often catch us out. But, in it all, we know a truth. God cares. God cares so much that God comes in Jesus to enter in to all the hopes and all the dreams. God enters into the most haunting dread and the deepest of our fears. And God transforms them all:

‘...for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples...’ (so says Simeon in Luke 2: 30-31).

May God be with you and bless you this Advent, this Christmas and this New Year!