Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us. Luke 1:78 (NLT)
Sometimes, a modern translation causes the words of a familiar verse to ‘pop.’ For me, Luke 1:78 is one such example; the enormity of these words speaks into the depths of my soul and conveys a sense of hope over the coming days. We are about to celebrate the tender mercy of God, flooding our world with light like a new dawn breaking after what feels like a very long night.
These words in Luke 1 come to us towards the end of Zechariah’s prophecy, as he holds his son John in his arms, overflowing with the Holy Spirit, perhaps shedding tears of joy and love, speaking words of possibility, prediction, and promise.
I struggle to recall when I was last similarly lost in a moment; perhaps when my wife first told me that ‘we were pregnant’ over twenty-seven years ago. I worked in an open-plan office in London; it was very early days of the pregnancy, perhaps just a few weeks, when my wife rang me at work to tell me the news. The advice was that in these early stages of pregnancy, much could happen, and we should not build our hopes up too much; in other words, don’t make any big announcements. Such was my joy that I told everyone. I was overjoyed and lost in the moment; nothing else mattered as I went around shaking hands with everyone to tell them I would be a father. The poor man servicing the photocopier looked quite confused as I hugged him and told him I would be a Dad.
Oh, to recapture such genuine joy and celebration, but in a way, this is what we are each called to do as we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth: to go around shaking hands, putting a metaphorical cigar in their mouths, and inviting them to join the celebration - ‘The morning light from heaven is about to break upon us!’
Arguably, there is much in the news to dampen our spirits and cause us genuine concern. 2024 looks to be a year of massive political upheaval in the Western World, and against this backdrop, there is uncertainty over the church as it becomes even deeper entangled in debates that seem to do anything but point people to Jesus; the night feels very long and very dark. But our hope at Rural Ministries is in Jesus, and we desire to spread this hope amongst those in our network so that they, too, may have confidence in the morning light of heaven.
The past year has been filled with ups and downs; we have said heart-breaking goodbyes to those called home by God; they were good people, and we miss them. We have experienced the joy of worshipping alongside some of you on Sundays, and we have enjoyed the company of many through the rural hubs at Launde Abbey, Scargill House, St Cuthbert’s Centre and Lee Abbey. It has been an honour to award a handful of grants to enable people to follow God’s call. We, too, have benefitted from your gifts of prayer and finance, which allow us to continue to do what we do; thank you.
So, may I now, on behalf of the entire Rural Ministries team, wish each and every one of you a peaceful and joyful Christmas. May the Spirit continue to empower you to speak words of hope and light into the breaking dawn of 2024.
Simon Mattholie CEO, Rural Ministries