‘Happy New Year’ doesn’t sound like the right thing to say just now when so much of our country is burning, when so many human lives and other life has been lost and homes and livelihoods destroyed. But the prophet Jeremiah (not known as a Pollyanna in the Old Testament!) reminds us that we worship and serve a God who gathers up those whose lives have been shattered, who are the most vulnerable. “See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labour, together; a great company, they shall return here.”
And then – and this is the verse that stood out to me amidst so many images of ravaged landscapes and livelihoods – God says, “They shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord…their life shall become like a watered garden…”
Their life shall become like a watered garden. It is not an image of luxury or glamour or prestige. It is just an image of goodness, of life and growth, of productivity and sufficiency and of sharing that goodness with each other.
There are many ways we can do that this year in our church community. We can continue to share our lives – our joys and sorrows – with each other, and welcome newcomers into our common life. We can work together in the activities and ministries of this church – and encourage each other in this work! And we can pray.
And we can do the same in our community as well as we share its life; celebrating our common joys, reaching out to all in need; working with others to make our neighbourhoods, our city, a good place for all who live here. And we can pray for Canberra and for our country.
This Wednesday, 8th January at 8am, here in the church, the prayer group is resuming. Everyone is welcome to come and join us as we pray that this country, that all who share its life – that our lives – will become like a watered garden.
And there are other ways you can help. In the present situation, the best way is to donate money. Money allows people to buy what they need and supports local businesses also impacted by the fires. There is a list of organisations below, including the Baptist Association of NSW and ACT which will channel funds through local churches helping people in need in their communities.
- Red Cross (redcross.org.au)
- Salvation Army (salvationarmy.org.au)
- Blazeaid (blazeaid.com.au)
- NSW Rural Fire Service (rfs.nsw.gov.au – search for ‘donate’)
- NSW ACT Baptists (nswactbaptists.org.au – search for ‘bushfire’)
As we worship and serve our God this year may we be part of ‘watering’ the lives of others; of making this a ‘Happy Year’ for all.