Newsletter Jan 10th 2021

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Dear Friends,

'Happy New Year!'
That was the greeting people shouted when standing on their doorsteps just after midnight on Jan 1st along our street.
We had been standing on our driveway in the cold whilst watching a very impressive firework display laid on by our neighbour that lit up the night sky.

The dawn of the 'New Year' usually brings with it that feeling of a new beginning, a fresh start and after 2020 the hope that things can only get better.

With a new lockdown, a fresh variant of the coronavirus emerging, businesses going to the wall, many back on furlough, home schooling and hospitals on the brink such feelings of hope can soon be consumed by darkness as the 'long winter' continues.

One man who was often consumed by the darkness of the situation that surrounded him was Jeremiah, one of the major prophets of the Old Testament.
In fact, he is often called 'The Weeping Prophet' because of the sorrow he felt at the state of the nation, its bleak future and on a personal note the way he felt called and compelled to speak out even though no one listened, and many derided him. Jeremiah knew what it was like to live through a 'long dark winter'.
And yet it is right in the middle (literally!) of the book of Lamentations that you find these incredible words of hope.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself. 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'
(Lamentations 3.19-24)

Jeremiah recognised that the darkness of winter was not yet over, indeed there was a long way to go, but even in the gloom he never lost faith in the God whose love was so great, whose compassion never failed and whose faithfulness was new every morning.

In the darkness God must have seemed very distant to Jeremiah but he would wait on him with patient hope, knowing that in him he found his strength.

As we begin the New Year, we no doubt face many difficult, frustrating, and challenging times ahead, but we have reason to hope!

Some among us have already received the vaccine, the dark nights will get lighter, the snowdrops will soon begin to flower, the sun will shine once more... and as a people of faith we also have that sure and certain hope in God to hold onto, and so like Jeremiah even in the darkest of days we quietly wait on him.

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in His wings;
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

(William Cowper H&P 571)

Thank You!
A big thank you to Debby from all the CAMEO ladies for their Christmas Stockings. They were very much appreciated.
A thank you also to all those who provided and delivered flowering plants to members and friends of our churches just before Christmas.

Christmas Eve Zoom!
It was great to be able to see so many people on the Christmas Eve Zoom carol service and thanks also to everyone who took part in readings and prayers for the on line recorded services.

Well Done...
To Mary Thake from Hale who has now produced two very helpful YouTube reflections for church members! https://youtu.be/QjY8Z3L-toU

The Prayer Course — Sign up now!
We plan to run 'The Prayer Course' via Zoom which offers an 8 week course taking us through Lent based around each line of the Lord's Prayer — beginning on Thursdays from Jan 28th.

The course contains a video talk and an opportunity for discussion and prayer.
Please let me know if you would like to meet at 11am or 7.30pm (we can run two groups if necessary)

We will look at:
Why Pray?
Adoration
Petition
Intercession
Unanswered Prayer
Contemplation
Listening
Spiritual Warfare

A companion book is called 'How to Pray' written by Pete Greig who runs the Emmaus Church in Guildford. I have read this book — it is accessible, down to earth and insightful.
You can find out more by going to the website:
https://prayercourse.org/about/ and also order the book on Amazon.
Please let me know if you would be interested and whether you would like a day course or an evening course. (we may be able to run both).

Worship Services — All on line
The On-Line service this week is led by Pam Jones. The service is at www.altonmethodist.org.uk
Pause for Thought appears on a Wednesday on the church web site as we begin a new series on the 'I Am' sayings of Jesus.

A Blessing
May the God of hope fill you now with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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