Patients were encouraged by a woman who walked around a hospital ward in her dressing gown singing, “Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger, my love is stronger than your fear. Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger and I have promised, promised to be always near.”
That was 21 years ago and the same song, written by John Bell of the Wild Goose Worship Group, could be the theme tune for the Covid Christmas drama as many people live with fear of what tomorrow might bring; guilt for how they feel today and grief for what has gone. ‘FEAR’ can be replaced by other words, but none of them are as strong as the LOVE “that came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine; love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign”.
I am sure that woman will be singing from heaven like an angel the same words today and I pray we will let LOVE be the Advent light that shines into the darkness of fear, guilt, grief and doubt — or any other emotion we choose — for it is the source of strength that enables us to find new life. There is nothing stronger.
Yes, LOVE is shown and felt in the hugs and kisses, in holding hands and sharing laughter or tears and celebrating with food and drink, but LOVE is so good that it’s worth waiting for. LOVE is so special and so strong. All good things are worth waiting for, so we say. That’s why Advent is a time of waiting! That’s why I’m not rushing into Christmas to hug my family and friends; to hold their hands or celebrate with food and drink at the same table. LOVE will grow stronger through the waiting time so I can look forward to meeting it again in the new year whether it be spring, summer, autumn or next winter. All good things are worth waiting for, but what I do know for sure is that the LOVE of God is always near and stronger than my fear!
This is the Advent week of LOVE and through the darkness that we experience we can light a candle and pray it will shine stronger, brighter and longer than our fear. Don’t be afraid to wait for the Lord has promised, promised to be always near! Not only near, but with you in all the pain, guilt, grief, doubt and fear because you are loved by God more than you can ever believe.
One of the Christmas messages I received this week was from A Rocha UK who encourage the growing Echo Church movement of which we are committed to being a part of. It refers to an Advent reflection reminding us that although we’ve all been in different boats this year, we’ve been in the same storm. It has certainly been a tumultuous one; perhaps for some of us a time of deep grief. Wherever and however you are reading this, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace …’ Romans 15.13
Whilst we may hope for calmer waters in 2021, we know that life will not return to normal overnight – and in some respects, let’s hope that it doesn’t. We know that we have to keep plugging away at the many issues of our time (cultural, political, economic etc) which conspire to damage the earth and the rest of creation with which we share it – our common home. Collectively though, we can make a difference and we can be encouraged by the many stories of progress coming from churches across the country, even in a time of pandemic. 15 churches have now achieved a Gold award, the latest being St Cuthberts, a small rural church in Cumbria. We’re sure that there will be many more to announce next year and we’ll bring you some exciting news in January when we will also mark the 5th anniversary of Eco Church.
We’ve been very encouraged to see a number of new Methodist Circuits register recently for Eco Circuit and the majority of URC Synods and Anglican Diocese have now registered for their respective schemes too. 11 Diocese have Bronze Eco Diocese awards with Bristol, Canterbury and Manchester all achieving this in the last few months. We will publish the criteria for Silver ‘area’ awards early in the new year. There will be plenty to do and lots of opportunities coming up in 2021 which you can read about below. But in the meantime just ‘be’ in the season and take time to reset, enjoying the gift of God sending his son, and the gift of his Creation.
I agree that “we are in different boats” and will continue to be, but, it won’t always be stormy weather and if we work together we can get much more done on the same calm waters!