The year of 2020 will be remembered for the outbreak of Covid-19, social distancing, national lockdowns and sadly many more deaths than would normally be expected. It has been a very long time with little prospect of things changing soon. The hope of the vaccine seemed a long way into the future with no guarantee of an effective one. As I write today, Advent is about to start and there are now three vaccines awaiting regulatory approval. It seems both unimagineable and exciting at the same time. The prospect that in the first quarter of the New Year that the most vulnerable and frontline health workers will be protected against the potentially deadly disease is quite remarkable and wonderful. 

One of the themes of Advent and Christmas is a light shining in the darkness. Darkness can not stand against light. During this pandemic it has felt like we are trapped in a dark tunnel with little or no prospect of light at the end. In this situation you have no idea how far you have to travel to reach the light. The vaccine was the light and now we have an idea that things will be radically different in a matter of months for the most vulnerable! The panademic reminds us all that we need to support and help each other. We cannot or should not think we can live wholly independently. We are reminded of the importance of our families and friends. We are reminded to look out for those in need around us, so that we might offer help and support. These qualities should continue to grow and develop, and not be left aside for the next crisis. The amazing thing about Christmas is God comes to us and shares in our life experiences. He reaffirms the importance of serving and helping others. We are encouraged to be a caring community looking after each other and the created world.

The New Year promises real hope and a new order with freedoms restored. There is a real danger that we go back to how we were before the pandemic and forget the lessons of valuing our health care and looking out for vulnerable people. We should want to add some of the good things we have learnt into this New Year. There are some real challenges for our environment and the way we want to live that should not be lost in freedoms regained. 

The world has already changed and moved in a new direction, we need to find new ways of being and serving. The excitement of Advent and Christmas should help us to find a new way of life and being in a New Year of restored freedom and promise. God reminds us that how we use freedom is profoundly life changing. Selfishness restricts life, selflessness gives new hope.

Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday)