Dear friends

Have you heard the message of peace? Have you passed on the message of peace?

Last Sunday we lit the peace candle in our service, marking the second Sunday of Advent and the commencement of a week focusing on peace. Jeanette Mathews preached on the topic “Messengers of Peace” from Isaiah 40, encouraging us all to be God’s messengers/angles in our generation, passing on the message of good news, comfort, and peace. Several inspiring stories of peace-making illustrated how we might be able to do that.

Miriam Downey’s Advent devotion emailed on Tuesday gave some other helpful examples. Reflecting on the year that was I’ve been reminded of all the wonderful stories of people bringing peace to neighbours, family and strangers. For instance, clapping for healthcare workers, neighbours singing on balconies, the emptying of dog shelters, young people shopping for the elderly, and the reduction of CO2 emissions that is bringing peace to the environment. All of these small acts brought peace to someone in need.” Miriam also wrote that “We can still find peace amongst the chaos of this year.”

Will Small suggested the same thing in one of the daily Advent emails that Common Grace has been sending out. He points to the phrase “And he will be our peace…” in Micah 5:5 and says:

In this anxiety-laced, hustle-sick, pandemic-shaped, modern madness who doesn’t want peace? Sign me up. 

But, the next part of the sentence is a little less joyous. ‘…when the Assyrians invade our land…’

When. Not, if. The reality of invasion.

Like these stolen lands. Like those innocent ones detained. Like that spreading disease. Like our plastic-filled ocean. 

Invasion, invasion, invasion.

This peace is not the extinguishing of suffering or an early exit. It is not an Assyrian-proof forcefield. It is an alternate reality, somehow available, even in the middle of invasion.

He concludes:

Whatever you suffer, grieve, face — these may still press at your sides on Christmas morning and weigh on your shoulders on Boxing Day, and creep in with the first light of New Year’s Day.

But, his peace comes even in the midst of the invasion.

For further stimulation of your thinking on this conundrum, I recommend you read John Higgins’ devotion that will be emailed to you on Saturday morning. I won’t spoil it for you by revealing the Bible passage or John’s conclusion, but he says in one section that “There is no promise here that God will spare us suffering or turmoil. Nor is there a call to blithely resign ourselves to the evils in the world. Rather, we are told that it is possible to find peace while struggling with sorrow, misfortune and — for Christians living in some parts of the world, though not here in Australia — persecution.”

This coming Sunday, the third of Advent, we begin a week of reflection on joy. Belinda will be preaching on that theme from Psalm 126 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 and the hymns will include some great favourites —“Joyful, joyful, we adore you” and “Joy to the world”

To add to our joy, we will all be able to join in the singing, those in Church as well as those on Zoom. Appropriate distancing, hand sanitising, cleaning, and registering of attendance is still required. To streamline entry into the Church, please download the Check-in CBR App onto your mobile in advance and scan the QR code at the door. The stewards will assist or register you if necessary and will also guide you to appropriate seats. Please arrive a little earlier than usual as all this takes extra time. This Sunday is for I-Z’s, the 20 December is for A-H’s , and then all are welcome on Christmas Day and Sundays after that. Livestreaming via Zoom will continue and the Hall will be used for any overflow.

After Church this Sunday, at 11.15am, the last volunteer induction session for this year will be held in the Lounge. Over 50 people have attended these sessions over recent weeks and found them helpful.

Our popular Carols in the Park, held in conjunction with Wesley Uniting, is on Sunday 20 December at 6.15pm for 7.00pm. With the recent easing of some COVID restrictions, we are now looking forward to being able to sing along.

Amidst all the exciting events and activities of this season, don’t forget to complete the on-line survey that was emailed to you last Thursday. This is an important part of our review into the ministries and staffing needs of our Church and we are keen to receive the views of as many as possible. Responses close on Friday 18 December. Our consultants, Ted Bell and Andrew Dodd, are the ones who will receive and report on the responses. It is only a short survey, questions are optional, and you can write as little or as much as you like.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7 NLT)

John Morrison