Letter from the Vicarage - January 2018
BLESSINGS FROM THE VICARAGE
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Happy New Year!
Often at the beginning of a new year, as I think probably many people do, I reflect for a while on the year past – the good bits and the less good bits…
At the end of November last year I took a band of 32 pilgrims to the Holy Land. This was my 6th pilgrimage - the first was in 2005 so I have been visiting the Holy Land for over 12 years now and I have seen much change in that time. We had a deeply moving, spiritual and wonderfully (yes, really!) exhausting time visiting all the sites both religious and secular because, as I repeatedly said to the pilgrims as they got up at 6am or earlier each day, this is a pilgrimage not a holiday!
Less than 3 weeks after our return, I looked at the news with dismay as the American president Donald Trump publicly signed a declaration that he recognised Jerusalem as the centre of the Israeli nation. I knew there would be a negative and possibly violent reaction from the Palestinian community with a much heavier back lash from the Israeli armed forces. I, and I think along with the rest of the world really, knew that the fragile political situation (which nevertheless had fairly steady held for some time) would be totally destabilised by this unwise move. In the days that followed all that I had thought happened and my heart saddened, especially for the people who I have come to know well over all my visits to the country. For the Holy Land and all concerned pilgrims, this has not been a happy Christmas… much happiness and hope has been lost…
When, at the end of a year, there is so much difficulty and darkness, not only in the Holy Land, but if we have also experienced physical, practical and emotional difficulties ourselves in our lives where we live and breathe and work, it can be difficult to pick oneself up and start all over again, as it were. However, I do believe God has a ‘handle’ on this which is what the coming of Christ at Christmas each year is all about. We have been through the carol services, the nativities and all the hype that goes with giving presents in December, but now in quiet January we can ponder the great mystery of the love of God being reborn in our hearts to give us courage and energy to face the New Year. That’s what all the words like Emmanuel (God with us) and Incarnation (God in flesh) mean. We are not alone in our lives or living; we are not alone in our good times and in our difficult times. God is with us, in us and through us… So, if we have understood this, we can also apply this knowledge prayerfully and it will help us get through really troublesome times, especially if we can ‘visualise’ things from God’s perspective which puts everything in perspective, we will start the year with the hope that only God can give us. Hopefully then, we can strive to make the world a better place wherever we are.
I am reminded of great hymn lyrics by Timothy Dudley-Smith:
“Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided,
urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way,
sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided:
Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.”
Life is not straightforward by any means, but if we always remember thankfully that each of us is God’s child and that we are all truly loved, as is all creation, then this might help us bring more consideration, peace, wisdom, balance and understanding as we go through 2018.
With love and blessings,
Ps. Please do keep praying for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land, and indeed the world…