Wishing you peace and hope this coming year
As I write, just coming up to Christmas, I am looking back over 2020 and looking ahead to the New Year.
Who would have thought what 2020 would have brought to us. It seems unbelievable that it’s been so long as well. Back in March, we were nervous about gathering, cancelling the Harrogate Male Voice Choir in case we spread the virus. Lockdown came, and we thought it would just be for three weeks, then realised it would be six weeks, then of course it was extended to three months.
For those shielding, the time seemed a long road, even just for three weeks, and some of us are still shielding. We had the benefit then of the good weather, although for those shielding without a garden, that must have felt like adding insult to injury. For most of us, we could get out and about.
We might even be able to see the positives in the time alone or with family, time for the garden, time to read, time to catch up on things we have been meaning to do for years. Many of us had a freer summer, able to see extended family, and even travel around the country, if not abroad, we then came into the second lockdown and tier 3. It has been harder with the colder weather and darker nights, and now with family plans cancelled for some of us, even the joy of Christmas may be marred.
That is where our faith should sustain us. It has been hard with the lack of being able to meet together for worship. Yet for many of us, the use of different resources, some of which has stretched our technical know-how, has given us more time to reflect on what we’ve read or heard, more time to pray and to develop our spiritual lives. I pray that has been true for you, and you have found comfort and peace in the knowledge of God’s presence.
So what of the New Year. For some of us there is already hope. There is even some positive excitement for those given the vaccine, and for most of us as that won’t be long in coming. We can’t relax completely, and the next few weeks will be tough, but we can look forward to later in the spring or early summer when the majority of us will be able to get out and about, and see our families more often.
The words on the picture above are from Isaiah 40: 30 – 31, ‘Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’
As we go into the new year, with all the uncertainties that brings, those words give us hope. It’s not a hope founded on desire, but on faith in the Lord of all. Difficult times have happened and we continue in them for now, but as we hope in the Lord, He will sustain us to the end.
As we look to this new year, keep that hope alive as you continue in the faith of Christ. God be with you in it and through it.
With love in Christ,
Advent Course Feedback and Coffee & Conversation
The Advent course across the Leeds Churches was very successful, with an estimate of 70-80 households coming online to the Zoom sessions or using the book at home. The ministry team are therefore planning a Lent course, which will start in February, as Ash Wednesday is on 17th Feb. Details will be available in the next magazine and will come by email to those who receive them.
We will therefore not start back with the Coffee & Conversation groups for now. However, it would be helpful to have any feedback from the course. It was a reflective course, which many found helpful, although some have asked for a discussion course next time. Please let me know your thoughts as soon as possible, as we will be choosing the material by 12th January.
As a party for our special friends was out of the question this year, the Elders made the decision to donate money to the Women’s Refuge and to Social Services. Both were extremely grateful and thank the church for their continued support. I have also packed and delivered twelve bags to needy families we have got to know over the past few years.
NO CRACKERS THIS YEAR? . . . . . . .
How do you help someone who has lost their Christmas spirit?
Nurse them back to elf.
What kind of motorbike does Santa ride?
A Holly Davidson!
Why couldn’t Mary and Joseph join their work conference call?
Because there was no Zoom at the inn.
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We have been fortunate in being able to attend worship in recent weeks at both the Methodist Church and at St. Michael’s. It has been both moving and strange, sitting so spaced apart, wearing masks and unable to sing; but wonderful to be able to worship with others in a special place. Words seemed more relevant and the introits sung, more joyful, and it seemed impossible that worshipping together in our own special place was once so much part of our lives. As we approach Christmas, sadly we must continue to live our lives as carefully and quietly as we can, not only to protect ourselves but to protect others too. Let us hope it is not too long before can be together again, not masked and distanced but enjoying each other’s company and singing our hearts out.
In the meantime, we cannot thank Clare and Ian Lawrie enough for continuing our worship through modern technology. Those of us who brush with technology and usually come off worse, can only marvel at Ian’s skills at putting the services together in such a professional way, especially when he adds the video content. Then, to add all the practice and playing of the accompanying organ music must make it a full time occupation. Our best wishes to Ian as he celebrates a special birthday early in the New Year.
And thank you to Clare for speaking to us and guiding our thoughts each week and for keeping us all in touch through her devotion sheets.
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I expect you, too, have friends with whom you keep in touch at Christmastime, telling of events of the past year, sometimes plans for the next and invariably adding good wishes for the coming year. How poignant some of those greetings from last Christmas now seem. How we all wish that the old year would take all its suffering with it, but it seems we shall have to wait some months before we can ring in our ‘old lives’ again. Somehow, Tennyson’s words are more appropriate than ever and I thought you might like to be reminded of them:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON