On the Spot
Please note there is no new On the Spot for January, as the last edition of Catch This was for December & January.
December 2023: Advent & Christmas Hope
As you can imagine, this has not been the year that I had anticipated 2 years ago when I applied for the post to be your priest in charge. Two days before last Christmas, I was told with certainty that I had kidney cancer, only to be told 2 months later that it wasn’t. Into this new year my high-functioning anxiety got the better of me and I had to step back for a month but with the help and guidance of some wonderful people, plus all your faithful, prayers, I made 2 years progress in 3 months! Summer became a series of infections which sorted themselves out in the end and late summer brought the devastating new of yet more cancer. But in all these challenges, I had, and still have, hope in the Lord and what he is able to do. Right now, I feel closer to him than ever before and my faith has never been stronger.
As I cast my mind forward to Advent and Christmas as a whole, both seasons contain messages of hope. Somewhat backwards, Advent focuses our attention on Jesus Christ coming in glory for the second time to gather all the faithful to him throughout all generations. As Jesus said, as recorded by Matthew in chapter 24, “…they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” Are we ready for that, or is our attention elsewhere? If it, is we can be filled with a hope, peace and certainty which, personally, I have felt to the depth of my being. Whatever the short term future holds, I know what the long term future holds. As we read in Revelation 21, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” This is my hope, my certainty, my peace.
But, I wouldn’t have this hope for the future if it wasn’t for the hope that Christmas brings. As Jesus says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” At Christmas, we see that love in person, a love which engages with humanity in the most personal way. A relationship with God through law was fulfilled by Jesus and we have the opportunity to be one with God, through a personal relationship with Jesus in our lives today. We only need to look at the Gospels to see God’s heart in Jesus. The compassion he had for the lost, the ill, the tormented, the marginalised. He reached out then, as he reaches out now. If Advent gives us hope for the future, Christmas gives us hope and strength in the here and now. As Jesus was sent by the Father to transform the lives of those with which he engaged on a personal level, Jesus is sent now into our hearts by faith for the same purpose – to transform our lives. This gives me hope, strength and certainty that my daily journey is not a barren existence and then all will be well, but the daily promise of a life lived to Jesus and for Jesus. John records Jesus saying in chapter 11, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Yes, this is the future Advent hope but it is also the daily Christmas hope. One for the future and one for the now, as I continue to give thanks for his many blessings – most of all being able to lead services.
It is my prayer that your journey through the seasons of Advent and Christmas will bring you hope, Joy and Peace, both in the age to come but also day to day as we walk with each other but must of all, with Jesus. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
I pray that you will all receive in abundance the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit this Advent, Christmas and in the New Year.
Grace and peace,
November 2023: Conflict resolution
As I write this, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been added to by that in the Middle East. We learnt with horror of the attack on Israel by Hamas, and then with equal horror of the reprisals taken by Israel. We also discover that other players in the Middle East may well become involved.
As the situation in Northern Ireland was (and still is to some extent), we are looking at a historical situation. Each action calls forth a counter-move so that neither side can be held blameless and it is always possible to say “We only did this to them because they did that to us.”
In Northern Ireland, things have calmed down a lot and people are starting to take responsibility for their actions. And the conflict there only goes back about 400 years.
What is happening in the Middle East has a far longer history – about 3,500 years and it all started because of a disbelief in God’s promise. Abraham was childless and although God had promised him offspring, he decided to take action himself. His wife Sarah had a maid called Hagar, and as was allowed by custom, Abraham took her as a second wife and she had a baby – Ishmael. In due course God provided Sarah with the promised child Israel, and Hagar and Ishmael were sent away. The Jewish nation is descended from Israel and the Arab nations from Ishmael.
So what we have in the Middle East is a family feud which had gone on through millennia. How can it be resolved? It requires both parties to recognise their part in the dispute and the hurt they have caused. Then perhaps it may be possible to move forward in a new and peaceful way.
This is not just ancient history however. Today we see families torn apart by hurt and a feeling of grievance. If we are going to become a better society, this needs to be dealt with, so that the anger and bitterness in the world is reduced.
There is only one way for this to happen and that is by seeking the love, power and healing of God in our lives and in the lives of those we hurt.
May God give us the grace to seek this.
Last Updated by HJF 19 January 2024