January Letter from Mat

Happy New Year! I guess how we hear that phrase depends on whether we are naturally optimists or pessimists. If 2009 was a year to forget, ‘Happy New Year’ could herald more of the same or a new start. If 2009 was a good year, Happy New Year might mean ‘let’s have more of the same’ or things can only get worse. Which is it for you?

When Zechariah’s son John is named he praises God in words recorded in Luke 1:68-79Open Link in New Window which end with the phrase;

“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon* us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This is Zechariah’s optimism. No, more than that, firmly held hope and belief. Zechariah believes that John will herald the dawn from on high that will bring light to all those who sit in darkness. John prepares the way for Jesus the light of the world.

And yet many of us are aware that, even after Jesus there remains darkness. So what happened to the light?

One of the special moments of Christmas at St Matthew’s happens in the Christingle service. The Christmas story has been told, the Christingles lit and the children’s faces glow in the candlelight as we sing praise to God. They are sat in the darkness of the late winter afternoon with a gentle light illuminating them. In Jesus’ day, the Jewish religious authorities were expecting a messiah who would come in a blaze of glory like the noonday sun to banish the darkness. But Jesus came more as a candle flame. This gentle light is a comfort for those who sit in darkness and guide into the ways of peace; without shining too far ahead. This candlelight is one that we can look on, trust, have faith in and follow rather than an intense blinding one that we hide our eyes from. Zechariah also speaks of dawn breaking. If you’ve ever been up really early or stayed up all night then the breaking of the dawn offers real hope. The new day will and is coming. The sun will shine fully and brightly. The darkness will be banished. This too is promised by Jesus’ birth and life. The dawn has broken and the sun is not yet fully up, but it will be. And we look forward to that day in certain hope of a new heaven and a new earth and life in full with God.

So may the light of Christ’s presence comfort, guide and lead you and bring you hope of the day that is to come. Or as Romans 12Open Link in New Window puts it “now is the day of salvation nearer than when we first believed”. I look forward to sharing 2010 with you. Happy New Year!

Mat

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