The Year of …?

As I sat for my quiet time this morning I felt the quietness closing in. It’s never that quiet. There are always the distant sounds of cars taking people to work or children to school, usually there are birds in the garden chirruping as they settle on the feeders; but this morning there was nothing. It was silent and for a moment it was unnerving.

Of course we are back in lockdown. People are staying at home and children are staying indoors as it’s so cold this morning.

For the Chinese last year was the year of the rat but I wonder what you would call it; the year of the mask, the year of disappointment, the year of fear. In all my conversations through last year it wasn’t often that the thought of Hope came up except to say “I hope it all ends soon”, and as the year went on the words despair and hopeless seemed more in use.

All of us have been affected in some way by the pandemic and my ministry in Keystone has certainly had to change, but there has been good as well as bad. I’ve had some lovely one to one conversations that I would never have had when we met as a group. I have been encouraged by the way the team and the carers have stepped in to supporting others through phone contact for instance.

For Christmas last year the Keystone gift was a wooden candle; beautifully carved from olive wood with a flame from walnut. Each piece is different from all the others due to the grain in the wood. On the candle is carved and burnt the word Hope. It is hope that we all need to take us into this new year.

This morning I read the words from Isaiah 41:8-10

“But as for you, Israel my servant,
Jacob my chosen one,
descended from Abraham my friend,
I have called you back from the ends of the earth,
saying, ‘You are my servant.’
For I have chosen you
and will not throw you away.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand”

Although this was a prophesy made to the Israelites Isaiah refers to “My servant” and “those I have chosen” and so I believe this to be a promise passed down to us and we can own it for ourselves. After all, we are God’s chosen one’s; His servants.

2020 was, I think, a year of fear. Fear for personal health, for the health of those we love, for finances, for employment, for education, fear of being alone.
God tells us to put away fear and to trust Him because He is with us and will never let us down; He won’t disappoint us or leave us. We need to put faith in front of fear. I know that may seem trite but it is true; it may seem easier said than done and it isn’t easy but it is true.

Read the last 2 lines of those verses again. God doesn’t say I may strengthen you, if you put away your fear I’ll strengthen you. No. It’s a promise I WILL strengthen you and help you. Even if our resources run out and we feel we can’t cope any more God’s resources never run out.

Our candle still stands where I see it frequently during the day and remember the promise that God doesn’t stop giving.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand”


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