Do not be afraid!

Dear Friends,

On 1st January 2020 my diary was looking fairly full and a busy year was in prospect. Holidays were booked for Spring and Autumn and our main hobby interest, the Theatre was well catered for with several bookings at the three theatres we like to visit. As for preaching engagements, the majority of Sundays were booked and I was looking forward to the year.

How wrong I was, the holidays never happened, the Theatres were closed as were the Churches. The few times I preached were surreal. I found myself recording services in empty Churches or in front of a computer. It was a totally different year to the one I was expecting. For many of us it was a frustrating and inconvenient time but for those who contracted the covid virus it was a painful and bad experience especially if they had “long covid”. For some it was a devastating year because they lost loved ones. For some it has been a frightening year and many have found it difficult to leave their home.

You know, one of the things that Jesus frequently said was “Don’t be afraid”. In Matthew 10 when He was teaching some very heavy Theology he said it three times. Remember that these words were being said at a time when the Jews were living in an occupied land, subject to a cruel Roman oppression and with a collaborating King who could be equally cruel. In addition, on the horizon were the dreadful events of AD70 when Jerusalem would be sacked and the Jews dispersed around the world. Still Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid”. He made it clear that we could always rely on His presence and as Paul says in that remarkable passage in Romans “Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

There was someone else who also found that her future expectations were blown out of the water. A young woman about 15 years of age was looking forward to marriage and a quiet life as a carpenter’s wife when suddenly she was confronted by the Angel Gabriel. His message to Mary was that she had been chosen to be the mother of the messiah who the Angel said would be great and be called the Son of the Most High. Gabriel told her not to be afraid and made a promise which is also for all of us. He said that the Lord would be with her.

Government Ministers are now telling us that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is based on the very good news that some vaccines are close to coming on stream. There is however a greater light coming for us at the end of this dark year. We soon celebrate the coming of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. I am sure that especially this year we are looking forward to this celebration. I hope we will be able to observe all the usual traditions of Christmas but as we do so I am sure we will have in mind that Christmas isn’t really about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It was not about Frosty the snowman. It was not about some winter wonderland. It was not about silver bells or brightly wrapped packages. It was not about jolly old Father Christmas or Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. It was about Jesus Christ. The message is focused on Jesus. It always was and always will be.

I do hope that you will all have a joyful, happy and blessed Christmas with as many family members as you can. Come and join the celebrations.

Sydney Shore

Some of the Church decorations
organised by Philippa Westphal and Margaret Bradley, photo montage by John Sinclair