Christmas Letter

When I wrote last year’s Christmas letter, little did any of us imagine we would still be struggling through pandemic times. This has been another very challenging year for most people.

I remain hugely thankful though, for the resilience and dedication of so many of our church community; in caring for each other and keeping in touch, in facing the challenges of sustaining and re-building community and worship head on, in thinking and acting creatively and imaginatively in the ministry of the Gospel and how we can look outwards to our community, and in just loving each other. It is by the rhythms of God’s Grace that we know Life in all its Fullness. We thank God for loving us so much, for Jesus—his life, death and resurrection to new life and new hope, and his presence with us through the Holy Spirit.

In a Sunday service not long ago, Richard asked us to think of all the times God answers our prayers. Gaby then shared a short testimony about a clear answer to prayer God had given her, but noting how easy it is for us to continue to act as if God hasn’t answered our prayers! I have been so encouraged by this, and I’ve been positively noting all the times God answers prayers, day after day! God has answered many prayers for us as a community at St Matthews this past year, and rather than listing my thoughts about this, I leave it to you to think back, and remember God’s grace in all he has done for us. It is truly remarkable.

In Isaiah 27Open Link in New Window, the prophet begins with reference to the tough times of the exile of God’s people. But he goes onto remind them of their deliverance. In that day—”Sing about a fruitful vineyard; I the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it by day and night so that no-one may harm it.”

‘Sing about a fruitful vineyard!’

Thank you all for your partnership in the Gospel this past year. God is at work in the world, and He is at work in our local community and church family. The Father calls us to join in with what He is already doing. It’s His plan, and His purposes.

So, as we take our new vision process forwards, as we continue to offer the Alpha Course to help people think through Christian faith, as we sustain our care for each other and those in real need, as we turn outwards to face and serve our local parish community, as we invite and welcome new members into our church family, as we think and pray about how we can serve families and young people (the real missing ‘fabric’ of our churches), as we repair and restore our parish church building, and as we look into a new year, let’s be the ones who sing the stories ‘about a fruitful vineyard’—about all that God has done and is doing. This is a song we need to sing—and loudly… so others will hear of God’s grace and love and come to know Jesus as Lord of their lives. There is no more important thing in life.

May God bless you this Christmas and into the New Year.

Ian

Rev Ian Tomkins, Vicar, St Matthews Bristol.

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