Rev. John Collard (our Interim Minister)

Dear Friends,

Season of Hope

The season of Advent is here and we are fast approaching Christmas with all of its familiar celebrations and rituals. The panto, the Christmas Tree Festival, the decorations, the carol singing, the special Church services and the family gatherings.

I wonder how you feel about all that? Excited? Nervous? Stressed? Weary!? Longing for spring and warmer days? Sad, because Christmas is often a time when the absence of loved ones is most noticed? Does hope feature for you?

Hope is at the heart of the Christian celebration of Christmas.

We don’t actually know the date of Jesus birth, as the gospels give us no clues. The first recorded celebration of Christmas Day on 25th December was in 336AD, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine and a few years later, Pope Julius officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be marked on that date.

The date may have been deliberately chosen to replace the pagan festivals of midwinter and it is a striking feature of Christmas (in the northern hemisphere!) that it comes just after the shortest day. The symbolism is clear – darkness is in retreat and hope is re-born. The dark days of winter are on the way out at last and the promise of spring is coming.

Part of Isaiah’s prophecy of the messiah includes these words; “He will establish justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” Isaiah 42:4.

Hope is essential to the human spirit. Without it dreams disappear, energy dissipates and we wither inside.

What about our hopes for the church? In 6 months of Interim Ministry with you I have detected the stirrings of fresh hope. Church meetings have been constructive, we have made some minor changes to the church building, a new vestibule carpet and re-location of the PA equipment. Attendances at the services have been encouraging. Some who were estranged over recent conflicts have walked towards reconciliation, and a sense of confidence in God’s future is returning.

Christmas is a pointer for us to the greatest of all hopes. God become man in Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Whether for you, Christmas is a time of familiar routines or new patterns, whether it is tinged with sadness or full of joy, we can be sure that the hope we have in Jesus Christ is unshakeable. The time of our salvation is near and ‘the zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish it.’ (Isaiah 37:32)

John Collard

Interim Minister