Dear Church Family
What are you grateful for this Advent?
It's lovely to be able to reflect on the Advent stories at this time of year as we prepare for Christmas. Much of our material comes from Luke, who at the beginning of his gospel account tells us that he's 'carefully investigated everything' and prepared 'an orderly account' (Luke 1:3). As he faithfully and meticulously writes about all that happened he intentionally includes two songs - the song of Mary (1:46-56) and the song of Zechariah (1:68-79). And at the heart of both songs is gratitude.
Gratitude was central at that first Christmas. In a world of much uncertainty, God was powerfully at work, and God's people were grateful. They allowed thanksgiving to well up inside of them and then overflow in word and action. In today's uncertain world, we're called to do the same. To be a people full of gratitude.
There's so much to be thankful for in our church at the moment. For our Belfrey Groups, where so many us find fellowship and kindness; where we pray, study the Bible and reach out in love to those around us. For our services, where we sing God's praise, hear God's word, and are encouraged and invigorated for the mission the Lord has called us to. And more specifically for the ministry of Ben and Ellie Doolan and all they've given in recent years, and now the future ministry of Andy and Hayley Baker, now that they've joined us, and for the encouraging words of our Archbishop at the recent licensing, reminding us to be people who pray and work to see revival - God's kingdom coming in word and action, in sign and wonder. For the welcoming Christmas café last Saturday, where so many came into church and were warmly greeted and in an atmosphere of love and kindness heard the good news of Christmas. And for the wonderful Carol Service in York Minster last Sunday night, where so many of our church family served in different areas and lots of people responded so positively to all they saw and heard. In my ten years here at The Belfrey I think it is the most positive response on the door that I have experienced - with over sixty people asking for letters having prayed the commitment prayer, and others smiling and laughing, others weeping, and some in awe at what they had experienced. All this and more makes me grateful, and I hope it does you too. The Lord is at work, and we give thanks.
As we prepare now for Christmas Day and the end of the year, do use this time to continue to be grateful. If you can, take a few moments to read the two songs of Mary and Zechariah in Luke 1, and allow gratitude to flow from you, for all the Lord is doing in our church and in your life. Notice too that both songs have a prophetic direction, thanking God for what he's going to do in the future but expressed as if he's already done it! You might like to do the same, as we end the year and look ahead to 2019. The Lord has plans for us as a church, and for each one of us. Be grateful for all he's going to do. And then agree to trust and obey.
Mary sang that first Advent: 'My soul glorifies the Lord ... for the Mighty One has done great things.' Zechariah sang: 'Praise be to the Lord ... because he has come to his people and redeemed them.' Like them, let's be people overflowing with gratitude.