‘How lovely on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news…’ In this season of Advent we will be hearing again those wonderful prophetic passages from Isaiah and others, offering ‘tidings of comfort and joy’ and proclaiming the good news of God’s coming. I can resonate with this as I do a fair bit of travelling across hillsides myself at this time, and the Beacons, the Berwyns and Snowdonia itself become very familiar – in all kinds of weather.
However, I’m conscious it’s not always good news that I hear while on my travels. There’s anxiety about Brexit and concern about the future of the United Kingdom let alone relations with Europe; there’s the challenge of Climate change and the need for alternative economic models to secure a stable future for our planet; and the threat of violence seems all around us, from local acts of terror to the prospect of wider conflicts. It’s easy to be anxious and worried.
I’m also conscious that I’m not always a bearer of good news, and that in many of the various meetings I attend, we face some serious challenges. That’s true as we reflect on the picture of the Church offered by our statistical returns and consider how to respond in terms of ‘Our Calling’. It’s also very evident in terms of the stationing situation, and I know we’re going to face some real challenges in the coming years in terms of the deployment of our ministers.
But it’s out of a similar background that the prophets offered their word of hope and promise. They saw in the events around them the possibility of new beginnings. For Isaiah, an imperial power struggle led to the promise of restoration for God’s people. Perhaps in our own time, an internal coup may yet offer new hope of freedom for the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe.
For Advent speaks of a God always ready to do a new thing in the most unlikely settings. One of the most encouraging events I attended recently was the ‘Re-imagine Church’ conference at St Julian’s in Newport. There on a grey Saturday in November, more than 150 people from across South Wales (and I know there was a similar event in Prestatyn) gathered together to share their hopes and dreams for a different kind and way of being church. It seems to me that this is a pointer to the same hope of which the prophets speak, to the God of surprises at work in all our apparent crises, wanting to make them opportunities for his Kingdom to break in.
May I wish you every blessing for this Advent and a joyful Christmas to come,