Greetings! Happy New Year!
Jeremiah 31:7-14, Ephesians 1:3-14, John 1:10-18
If you have a white candle please place it on a stool, or a table where you can see it – light it as the Christ candle signifying that the light of Christ that never goes out. And then read the scriptures above – aloud if possible.
Most of us are pleased to see the end of 2020 which was challenging and very difficult. Many know the feeling of loss – loss of relatives and friends to Covid-19, loss of income and food security, loss of education as schools were closed and many more. The hope was that with 2021 dawning there would be change back to “normality”. But there is no change or at least not yet – Covid-19 continues to spread and we have added restrictions to our movements. Is there hope for better things in 2021?
A theme through our scriptures today offer hope, joy and a reason to celebrate. They carry us forward from the Advent season and the lighting of the candles of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace – and finally the Christ candle which overcomes all darkness, can never be extinguished and reminds us of Jesus’ unconditional love for all who answer Jesus’ call – and signifies our adoption as God’s children.
Jeremiah 31:7-14 –
Jeremiah prophesied in Judah about 600 years before Jesus’ birth. It was at the time when Israel was divided and many Israelites were in exile in Babylon and elsewhere – a time when they the people felt and had little hope of ever returning to the promised land that God had given them and felt they were abandoned by God. Our reading is a portion of Jeremiah’s prophesy, not only to the Israelites but also to gentiles and anyone who would believe and put their faith in God – a messianic prophecy of restoration, peace, hope, abundance and joy.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:3-14 –
Paul wrote this open letter to the Church in Ephesus and other churches in that area from his prison cell in Rome in about 60AD. He was unable to visit the churches and therefore wrote this letter of encouragement and teaching. Paul’s letter starts with giving praise to God for the Spiritual blessings the Christians had and that because of Jesus’ love for them they were adopted as children of God. They had been chosen even before creation started. Their sins were forgiven through God’s grace given freely to all who believed. And because of God’s grace the new Christian when their lives became chaotic they could put their hope in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Gospel of John 1:10-18 –
John, a disciple of Jesus, wrote his Gospel towards the end of the first century. In the Prologue he wrote in verse 12 –“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—".As children of God we will be in his kingdom. What greater hope could we have for our future?
Three scripture passages from different writers, (and there are many more such writings in the Bible) that offer those who have heeded the call to follow Jesus and commit their lives there is hope for the future. There are blessings and a promise of eternal life where “There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Our Hope for 2021
God said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5)
Whatever our situation – good or bad, God will never desert us. As we go into 2021 we are assured of that. And where God is, there is hope. And we are called to live as people of hope as Christ did – feeding the hungry, offering shelter and clothing, visiting the sick and those in prison. (Matthew 25) We are called also to share the hope, love, joy and peace that we know through our relationship with God and Jesus. Share the good news – in action, and if necessary use words.
The pandemic is far from over. People are becoming infected everyday and everyday people are dying. The Economy remains shaky; many people are still struggling day to day to survive. In 2020 we responded to the immediate need of food through giving food vouchers and other support – to families in the city and suburbs, street people, members of this church and non-members where need was identified. With generous donations which Teri has shared on several occasions we have met many needs. But these needs will continue and there is work for us to do. And the needs are more than just handing out food – they need to extend to helping the unemployed to find ways of providing for their families – their basic needs. Sustainability of income instead dependency on others to give basic essentials. Ask Teri, myself or any Society Steward if you are hearing a call to help.
Close with following two quotes:
Martin Luther King jnr said,
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.”
And John Wesley said,
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
PRAYER: Dear Lord. We pray for all those who infected and affected by Covid-19. Comfort them in their time of struggles and grief. We thank you for your promise that our hope for 2021 is in you. May we be a people who hear your guiding voice as we continue our journey together and that we will offer help to those who are the most vulnerable and in need of your love. That we will rise up and be the people you have called us to be. In Jesus name we offer ourselves to your service. AMEN