Derek Estill, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, on how to bring new, better ways of being into this new year
The festive season usually gives us an opportunity to come together with family and friends, no matter how distant they may be from us and from each other during the rest of the year. If we can’t physically come together, we can feel closer through the exchange of cards, letters, phone calls, emails, Skype, WhatsApp etc, which gives me the feeling that our world is becoming smaller. The great distances that some of us have grown up thinking about and have struggled with over the years, are now, it seems, much easier to come to terms with.
One thing is for sure, at this special time of year, and that is that there is a real feeling of the need to connect, particularly as we think about the holy family and their trials and tribulations. They must have had great difficulty getting about, not to mention finding somewhere to stay, and then having to hot foot it to Egypt!
Now that the excitement of Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve has passed, I have begun to look back and take stock. I’ve asked myself: Have I been able to make a difference by bridging physical or emotional gaps in my life?
The beginning of a new year often raises the thought, at least in my mind, that I must try to do better. But how? A little voice in my head has reminded me that I must be ready to allow the love of God into my life. This will, for sure, help me reach out more sensitively, empathetically and lovingly to others, whoever they are.
Our world seems to be adrift at present, and heading in the wrong direction. Many hate-fuelled things are happening: Wars continue to break out; humanity is facing an existential climate catastrophe, brought about by our own lack of care and thought for each other and our addiction to money. What about reconciliation; can we resolve to find ways to bring it about? What about knocking down the walls that separate us? Can we eradicate the physical, metaphorical and emotional walls we have erected, some deliberately to keep ‘the other’ out of our lives? Other walls are erected unconsciously by our unwillingness to accept a different point of view, or by not listening carefully enough to what others are saying. Careful listening is not easy, especially when we feel we might be making ourselves more vulnerable.
I have, from time to time, and particularly at this time of year, tried to engage with some of these thoughts. I have wondered if I have succeeded in bringing new ways of being into my own life, let alone influencing others.
It is a great privilege to be able to serve our Church in the many and different ways that we do. All of the ways we serve are important to our Christian life together: time spent with each other, making efforts to do things together; thinking and praying; reaching out in kindness, friendship and fellowship, and so much more.
Each day there are many terrible, hurtful and hateful things going on in the world. It is almost overwhelming, except when I remember and realise that I am not alone, or in the dark. Jesus is with me. He is the light of the world, showing me the way I must walk if I embrace his love in my life, and in my relationships with others.
With these thoughts in mind, and with mince pies and Christmas cake behind me, I can turn to the future. Despite some doubt and uncertainty, I live in hope, with a renewed confidence and enthusiasm because I remember that Jesus is with me all the time, wherever I am and whatever I am doing. Such good and great news is all I need in our troubled times. I need to tell my family and friends about this good news, and commit myself to making the new year one of new beginnings in Jesus’ name.
I wish you all a happy and peaceful year, and pray that both you and I will be able to contribute towards making a difference to people’s lives, for God’s sake, as we continue to walk the way and live the life of Jesus today, tomorrow and forever.
Happy New Year and new beginnings! With every blessing.
Derek Estill, January 2020