Welcome to St John the Baptist Church in Smalley, Derbyshire.

One year I was standing in a queue at a supermarket just before Christmas and I saw on a rack, a January edition of some sort of home magazine. I must have been rather tired or something because I found my eyes filling with tears. I was so longing to finally get to Christmas, to Bethlehem, finally come to the stable, with everything done or not done – but there anyway, – that the thought of then rolling on and out into January, was awful.

Actually, when the time comes, I do find myself ready – gladdened by the lengthening days and hopefully rested enough to look at new challenges with pleasure rather than desperation.

But I am writing this at the very beginning of Advent and am a little amused to find that the idea of January (at this point) still appals me.

Well, when we read this we will be there – and I trust be glad to be. We all have to leave the stable and carry what we found within, out, into the world.

If we enjoyed feasting, then perhaps in 2020 we might see how we can help those who are hungry. If we enjoyed the warmth of our home on dark nights we might resolve to do something about homelessness. If the weather was very different from what we expected, we might decide to pull our finger out about climate change. If we were glad to see our families and were able to give something to people we loved, perhaps this year we will consider those who are alone, or those who struggle to buy even the basic necessities for their children.

If at midnight on Christmas eve, we were overwhelmed by awe, knowing that God is, and loves us and, in Jesus, comes to be with us in all our vulnerability, our darkness and our mess – then perhaps in 2020 we might be brave enough to speak more, and more fully, of God and the wonder of God’s mercy, so that others may encounter such a moment.

There is a very lovely carol that should accompany us through January. It isn’t often sung now but it is called the Shepherd’s farewell and it begins ‘Thou must leave thy lowly dwelling, the humble manger, stable bare’. It is the Shepherds’ prayer for the little Jesus, they fear for him in the wild, wide world. It is their prayer for him, if you like, for all the challenges that January holds. It ends by repeating this, twice. ‘God go with thee, God protect thee, guide thee safely through the wild’. Pondering it now, I am comforted about the New Year. Jesus leaves the stable and comes with us into 2020, into the new decade and will help us with all the good that we want to do. So….

Happy New Year! And God go with you!
Revd Kate Plant

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