Revd. Helen Duckett writes…

Hello Everyone! This is my first blog as the new Vicar at Furzebank.  I was licensed on 28th November and I am very grateful for the warm welcome which my family and I have received from you all. (Some of you, of course, know Keith, my husband from when he was the Curate here.) The past few weeks have been a bit of a whirl-wind with all the Christmas services and events taking place; and I must admit that I am looking forward to January and to settling into a bit more of a routine.

The Vicar’s post at Furzebank is now a part-time role (0.5) and I will be combining it with another part-time job which I already have – working as the Chaplain at The King’s Church of England School in Wolverhampton. It may take a little while to get into a regular working-pattern so please bear with me; but one aim of mine is to try and make Wednesdays a day when I will be based in the Worship Centre; so if you ever do need to find me, feel free to pop by. You can also telephone or email me at other times – my details are in the contacts section of the website.

As we enter into 2017 and all the joys and challenges that the next twelve months will bring, many people, I think, will be glad to see an end to 2016. The past year seems to have been a particularly tumultuous one. There have been the hard, difficult, news stories such as the on-going conflicts in Syria and Iraq, with no seeming end in sight, which is still leading to the migration of hundreds and thousands of refugees. Then there have been the shock election results of ‘Brexit’ and of Donald Trump – whatever your opinion is on these events, there is no denying that the results were unexpected and many people have been left uncertain and anxious as to what they might mean for our own country and for the wider world. There have also been the deaths of many celebrities – famous and influential people like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Victoria Wood, Terry Wogan, Caroline Ahern, Alan Rickman; and just in the last few days, George Michael and Carrie Fisher.  However, in this topsy-turvy year, there have also been some good news stories as well – the success of Team GB at the Olympic and Paralympic Games was inspirational; as was Leicester City winning the Premier League; Andy Murray winning Wimbledon again and becoming World Number One; and Ore Oduba winning Strictly Come Dancing !

It is into a tumultuous, topsy-turvy world like this that Jesus Christ was born just over 2000 years ago. Jesus’ country, Israel, was being occupied by a foreign power – the Roman Empire, brutal and ruthless, who had no qualms about executing and torturing anyone who opposed them; and Jesus and his fellow Jews would also have had severe restrictions placed on their religious and social practices.  Jesus was born into this world; and for Christians, this fact says something incredibly significant and profound about God and about us. For Christians, Jesus is not just a great religious leader, or a spiritual guru, or a wise teacher. Rather, Jesus is ‘Emmanuel’ – ‘God with us’ – the one who shows us what God is like. In Jesus, God becomes human and enters into our world, and takes on all the joy and the pain, the happiness and the sorrow, the laughter and the tears that life can bring. Christians believe that in Jesus, we see a God who is not removed from us or from our lives but a God who gets stuck in; a God who is right in the middle of all that is going on; a God offering us peace, strength, courage, forgiveness, love – wherever we are and whatever situations we may find ourselves in.

It is this wonder and this mystery of the Incarnation that we have just been celebrating over Christmas. However, the belief that Jesus is ‘Emmanuel’ is not limited to 25th December. Rather, the message of Christmas is a message that is intended to be with us every day, every week, every month – throughout the whole of 2017 and beyond! God is with us – wherever we are, whatever situation we find ourselves in, whatever life throws at us; and it is perhaps by trusting in this message that we can find faith, hope and peace as we enter into the New Year.

For me, nowhere is this belief encapsulated more than in the words of the poem “The Gate of the Year” written by Minnie Lousie Haskins (1875-1957) and quoted by King George VI in his Christmas broadcast of 1939:

 

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

 

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

 

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

 

As we all enter into 2017, we pray for God’s peace and presence to rest upon us, upon our loved ones, and upon our tumultuous and topsy-turvy world.

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