Can it really be that after forty years in the ministry and very nearly nineteen years with you at St Paul’s I am now writing my last Newsletter article? I have always taken very seriously what I have written for our magazine, for these articles in print can be read over again and they also reach a far wider audience than our Sunday services. Copies go to other churches in the town, to the library and to our many friends and former worshippers who have moved away and like to keep in touch with us. The casual jottings of a minister simply won’t do, then. The form might be slightly snappier and more journalistic in a magazine article but the gospel of Jesus Christ should still be proclaimed, it has always seemed to me.
My message to you now is very straightforward. It is simply to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Many people are wondering how we can possibly have a ‘merry’ Christmas with all these COVID restrictions. But if there is love in our hearts, we can still rejoice at Christmas. We are celebrating God’s greatest gift of himself who came among us as one of us in Jesus, the Christ-child of Bethlehem to save us from our sins and to bring us back to him. No pandemic restrictions can take that great blessing away from us. And perhaps the silver lining in the cloud is that those restrictions might actually lessen the drunkenness and excessive spending which have got out of hand of late.
Who would have thought at the end of last year, when we were all wishing each other a Happy New Year, that 2020 would have turned out like this? It has been grim and challenging in so many ways, but we Christians know that, despite all this, God is always on the throne and that there is nothing, not even death, that shall separate us from his love in Christ Jesus.
The other thing I want to do in this article is to thank you. Thank you for inviting me to fill your pulpit and for listening to me Sunday after Sunday. It has been the hugest privilege to open up the scriptures with you and to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Thank you for putting up with me for so long.
And thank you for allowing me to be your pastor. You have allowed me into your homes and into your lives and problems. You could have bestowed on me no greater honour.
You have been a wonderful family to Laura and me, supporting us also in our own troubles. The relationships have been two-way, as they should be in any proper family. And, as in all families, things will not always have gone smoothly, and I ask for forgiveness for any failings.
So thank you to all of you at St Paul’s. It’s a terrific congregation with really committed and able people who make the place fit for God’s service. I am merely passing through, as we all are, but the constant is always Jesus, for it is not my church or your church, but his church. It is vital that you know Jesus as your personal Saviour and Lord, for a Christ-centred, God-honouring congregation will always thrive, whatever life throws at us.
So, for the last time I pray that God will bless you all and Laura joins me in wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Very sincerely Yours,