Minister's Message- December 2020

December 2020 Letter to the Vale of Stour Churches 

  Greetings in the name of Christ.  It seems that, this autumn, the whole world  is waiting, sadly not for Jesus but for a   vaccine - an alternative saviour - that may  bring a return to normal in the new year. Of   course we give thanks for the work of God  through scientists and doctors and we pray that these vaccines,  developed so quickly, will be safe in the long term and will indeed  offer protection against COVID-19.  What's interesting is that I noticed myself dwelling on the word  ‘normal’. What is normal? And do we want to go back to all  aspects of it? Our normal before Covid included marginalisation  of refugees, many damaged and broken global relationships,  increasing gaps between rich and poor, climate crisis made worse  by denial and a lack of appreciation of those in the care sector to  name but a few…  Certainly we look forward to being able to gather as family,  church and community without masks and in closer proximity.   But I wonder if we are brave enough to hold onto some of the  good things that have emerged from our Covid journey. I have  witnessed churches working so creatively to ensure that the  isolated and the vulnerable are not forgotten. I have rejoiced in  seeing increased community spirit. There is a fresh appreciation  of care workers and the NHS. We have discovered some of the  gifts and opportunities of online communication and some, perhaps, have had chance to reflect on their priorities in life. It  has also been wonderful to see the creativity of so many as faith  and comforting words have been shared in cards and candles,  liturgy, blogs, online worship, videos and activity bags.  Yes there has been huge loss, much grief and there will be hurdles  to overcome as we face the fallout of this year. But all is not  darkness as we hear again the words of Isaiah recalled in Luke:   

Luke 3:4–6 (NRSV) - as it is written in the book of the words of the  prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight… crooked  paths shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’  In those days, when a king travelled the desert, workers preceded  him to clear debris and smooth out the roads to make the trip  easier. I wonder what Luke means using this quote here? Is it  that through John, and in this generation, through our lives and  witness that the hearts and minds of those around us may be  ‘made ready’ to receive the story and message of Jesus?   As we approach a unique Advent, in partial or complete  lockdown, as we continue to face the inner and outer turmoil of  what will be an entire year of crisis, I cling onto the discipline of  waiting with expectation that Christ’s coming is in fact the key  and the cure to this world’s darkness much of which existed  before Covid.  And I wonder how I might prepare the way, smooth the path and  straighten the route to enable myself and others to experience the  presence, comfort, hope and light of God-in-Christ this Christmas.  May God bless you and keep safe – Rev Alan Combes