The challenges of 2021 are now behind us, and hopefully the COVID restrictions that placed such burdens on our ability to spend time with those we love are easing. If anything, the pandemic has taught us that the people we love and care for must be our priority because the networks of relationships that govern our lives, either at home or work, or in our community, have to be cherished if we are to be resilient and find meaning in life. The truth is that our community relies on so many people throughout the year. People who give their time and energy without pay, or who go far beyond what could reasonably be expected of them (including unseen and unsung). With this in mind, I turn to wishing you all a very happy New Year. While the last two years have brought many challenges, I believe there are many reasons to be optimistic about the year ahead. This optimism is not based on vaccines or new antiviral drugs and therapies, though I do believe that these are good things that will help. My optimism is based on our communities continued ability to work together, to help and support each other.
As a Christian I see this as more than simply “a nice idea”, I see this as being at the core of how God called us to be. For Christians this is what it means to live out the commandment to “love your neighbour”. Over the last two years our community, Christian or otherwise, has shown an ability to help and support each other in challenging times. I hope that this year will soon prove to be A Happy New Year which will give us many more opportunities to celebrate together as well.
A university professor managed to precisely calculate which day is the most depressing one of the year! This is apparently the third Monday of January every year and it has been given this accolade due to a combination of cold dark nights, the sense that Christmas is over and the arrival of credit card bills with our Christmas spending!
By the time most people read this, it will be a distant memory, but as I talk to people after two years of the COVID pandemic, there is a level of uncertainty and anxiety which fuels a sense that our world is out of control. It can feel much the same in church with numbers and activities curtailed in many places and recovery feeling very fragile. Uncertainty in our lives can make us all feel somewhat anxious about the future, and when we feel that we are not in control, that can lead to worry and doubt. Jesus reminded his disciples that God understood their needs.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Jesus’ teaching is very simple, as his followers are to live simply a day at a time and recognise that whatever our circumstances, his love and mercy offer hope for the future. We are called to look for the Kingdom to find those places where God is at work in our world and join in. Even when we do not feel we have anything to offer or the gifts and skills to make a difference, we can pray, and our presence can be a calming influence.
We also need to recognise that ultimately, we are not in control. If we call ourselves Christians, then we have voluntarily passed control of the direction of our lives over to God. The Holy Spirit lives within each of us to equip, empower and sustain us on the journey of faith and to be a guide for daily living. Paul understood better than most what trouble and anxiety mean, yet he wrote one of the most encouraging passages in the New Testament.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor heavenly rulers neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Given that God cares for us so much, we need not doubt that there is a better future, and our role is to point people to the hope that is within us. We all feel ‘blue’ from time to time, but it will never overcome our hope in Jesus, as Peter tells us in his letters:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...”
1 Peter 3:15
So, where does the Candlemas bit come in?
Jesus is described in the New Testament as the Light of the World, and early Christians developed the tradition of lighting many candles in celebration of this day. The Church also fell into the custom of blessing the year’s supply of candles for the church on this day - hence the name "Candlemas."
The story of how Candlemas began can be found in Luke 2:22-40. Simeon’s great declaration of faith and recognition of who Jesus was is of course found in the Nunc Dimittis, which is embedded in the Office of Evening Prayer in the West. But in medieval times, the Nunc Dimittis was mostly used just on this day, during the distribution of candles before the Eucharist. Only gradually did it win a place in the daily prayer life of the Church.
Looking for something new to read? Check these out...
Online services – these will restart Sunday 13 February.
Coffee Mornings – The Thursday coffee mornings continue to be enjoyed by our members, friends and the yoga group who join us after their class. We are very much hoping our local care homes may join us soon. Our next coffee morning will be Thursday 27 January from 10.30am – noon in the Small Hall.
The recent death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu was mourned around the world. Born as Desmond Mpilo Tutu in Klerksdorp, northwest South Africa, Archbishop Tutu was iconic for his work in anti-apartheid activisim, human rights advocacy and social justice reform.
Archbishop Demond Tutu (7 October 1931 – 26 December 2021)
Here are five of his more famous quotes that highlight why he was so especially honoured for his justice and reconciliation work in South Africa.
Archbishop Tutu was recognised in every Christian denomination as a holy and saintly man. His wisdom speaks of eternal truths and the infinite love of God for all people.
Valentines Day is celebrated on February 14th.
Ah, love. It's something that has been written about and grappled with since the beginning of time. Here are a few quotes to consider...
And two more, that seem important to include...
Looking for a way to pitch in? We have several spots available in this month's flower rota. If you're interested in a simple yet meaningful way to contribute, consider signing up.
Interested? Contact Maggie McKenzie at 0131 2614908.
Your help is always appreciated!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast,
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge -
The Link is a monthly publication by members and staff of Morningside United Church.