It is hard to believe that we are in November already and that the end of the year is fast approaching. November means a few things for me. The most pressing one is preparation for the Advent and Christmas. How do we celebrate in a meaningful way the anticipation and expectation of both the coming of Jesus and his promise that he will come again. How do we get ready to inspire ourselves and others with the miraculous birth of Jesus. And its important to remember that Advent and Christmas is not just about the birth of Jesus in the manger 2000+ years ago. It is also about preparing ourselves for Jesus coming again. In fact originally Advent was solely about preparing for Jesus coming again, and the focus on the first coming and the birth of Jesus only came later. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis, they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. And so Advent is a balancing of those two themes of remembering Christ’s coming and anticipating he coming again. To balance the two elements of remembrance and anticipation, the first two Sundays in Advent look forward to Christ’s second coming, and the last two Sundays look backward to remember Christ’s first coming. Over the course of the four weeks, Scripture readings move from passages about Christ’s return in judgment to Old Testament passages about the expectation of the coming Messiah to New Testament passages about the announcements of Christ’s arrival. For the church we celebrate thi season of Advent from late November till 24 December. The 25 December is the start of the Christmas season for the church. And as the song goes there are 12 days of Christmas with Christmas officially ending on 5 January. So amidst the hustle and bustle of the world celebrating ‘Christmas’ how do you ensure you have time and space to prepare for celebrating both the birth of Jesus but also his coming again? Doi you actually think about the second coming, and what difference would it make if you did?
Yours in Christ
23 January 2022
Welcome to the New Year.
It will be interesting to see what 2022 has in store for us. I hope and pray that everyone has had a good Christmas and is looking forward to the coming Year. Claire and I had the joy of meeting our new grand-child Elowen for the first time, and catching up with their parents Dan and Ginny. They have safely returned to Moree, NSW. As we look forward to the coming year, I am reminded of the hope and expectation that a new child brings. We are so excited to be grand-parents and new life is a sign of hope and promise. It is a belief in God, and a world that can be a better place. As we look at our world it is easy to be overwhelmed by what is happening around us, the effects of the COVID pandemic, natural disasters, droughts, floods and famine. But as Christians we believe that in God there is hope, there is peace, there is joy and there is love. I have certainly experienced all of those things this Christmas as we have had the time to share with Elowen and her wider family on both her parent’s families. And I carry that hope forward to looking at what lies before us as a church this year. Christians are in the business of hope, peace, love and joy (yes they are the themes from advent). We believe that God will prevail and that this is his hope for the world and all its people. We are a people who know and experience God’s love and power in our daily lives. And we do not do it alone. Let’s remember God’s promises to us and live them. To know that God does have control and that we can trust him. That God is faithful to us. People are right to be careful and we do make decisions that minimise risk. More people are joining us online at the moment, we are following the government protocols, some of our activities are being postponed. This is not about a lack of hope or faith. We still hold the big picture that God is in control and God will prevail. And so as we gather on Sunday in either format we celebrate and rejoice in God who is counter to the world and its values and calls us to continue to demonstrate God’s values of hope, peace, joy and love through our daily lives.
Well this brings us to the last newsletter for 2021. As I look back I want to thank you everyone for an amazing year. We have done well in challenging times and maintained a focus on growing disciples who exalt, explore, embody, and engage. On being the church that we are called to be in this place. We have done this because of the amazing people and I want to acknowledge the amazing and talented people that are a part of this church family. In doing so I will apologize now because I will inevitably leave some people out. Not deliberately but because there are so many people who help make this church family what it is. First I would like to acknowledge the ministry team. You are so fortunate to have gifted and talented people like Jess and Dom who are passionate about their calling to serve God in this way. We must also acknowledge Helen’s work and service over the past 10 years and give thanks for the way she has served the church over that time. Thanks for the leadership that is offered by the Church Council Executive, by Nathan, Chris and Ross and the extra time and effort that they have put in is huge. We are so blessed to have them. The leadership offered by the rest of Church Council and the oversight, particularly Spiritual oversight they offer, thank you. Then we have the leaders and volunteers in the various ministries that we offer and come under the Emmanuel banner. They aer many and varied and come out of the passion and commitment of many of you. In no particular order we have those involved in Community Helping Hand, Boys and Girls Brigade, Play group, Sunday School, Youth discipleship, any of our schools ministry, teaching RI, Kids Hope, supporting chaplaincy, supporting our ministry in the Solomon Islands, those leading or supporting our worship each Sunday, our musicians, worship leaders, bible readers, prayers, Dennis our COVID expert, our cleaning volunteers, those in our explore Groups, those discipling others and providing pastoral care that encourages people to grow in their faith. Those helping with the ongoing maintenance of the property, volunteers offering support i the office, particularly since Helen finished. You see what a massive list this is, and I am sure there is more. The strength of this church is all of you, serving the church and seeking to be more like Jesus in our everyday lives. My hope and prayer is that we have helped and encouraged you on that journey. That we are helping people to be more like Jesus everyday. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to lead you and encourage you on that journey. As we look towards 2022 may we have more opportunities to develop as disciples who help others to become disciples as well. Thank you everyone and blessings over this Christmas and New Year period and into 2022.
Grace and peace
It is a week before Christmas and the time of our Community Carols. Carol singing gives us such a wonderful opportunity. On a personal level singing has been proven to be good for our health, our mental well-being, even our immunity system. To sing with joy and hope the message of Christmas is so healthy for each of us. But carol singing is also good for us as a community. It unites us as a Christian community and provides an opportunity to invite friends, neighbours, work colleagues. In essence who are the people of peace, the people who are open to you that you can invite and encourage to hear the Christian message. Make no mistake someone coming to carols (or to church) does not make them a Christian. However inviting someone to carols (or church) provides an opportunity for you to share your life and faith with them. At Emmanuel we are on about growing disciples who grow disciples. This is you. If you come to Emmanuel we hope you are with us on the journey with Jesus. How do we help and encourage you to be a disciple who shares your faith and helps other people to know Jesus and to grow Jesus in their own life. Christmas is such a wonderful opportunity to understand the real reason about Christmas. The challenging part is to help people see past the decorations and distractions to the real meaning of Christmas. The message of God’s love and grace and forgiveness is hard to grasp when God is not a part of your normal everyday life. We have to get past the almost fairytale story of a baby in a manger with shepherds and wisemen to the truth behind the story. The truth of God’s love. And it becomes even more important for us who know the truth, to live it and celebrate it. Christmas is about celebrating God’s love. John 3:16 reminds us so powerfully of the true meaning of Christmas “16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Christmas is more than a baby born 2000 years ago its about Jesus and the Holy Spirit born in us each day. Let’s try and share the truth of Jesus with someone this Christmas.
Grace and Peace