New Year message from Rev Pete Phillips

In her song “Feeling Good”, Nina Simone declares: “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new life, and I feel
good.” For many of us approaching the new year this year, we may not feel as optimistic.
Our world is riven by wars and international stress. As I write this, the Israel/Gaza war
continues – a war most likely precipitated by Irano-Russian training/support for the terrorist
organisation controlling Gaza, Hamas, as a way to deflect the global community from the
longer and now entrenched war in Ukraine. The horrors inflicted on the people of Israel on
October 7th will stain humanity for ever. Indeed the stains of war will stain humanity – war in
Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Gaza, South Sudan, Somalia. The political tensions still in
Afghanistan, the South China Sea, now in South America too. We are at a difficult period in
the life of our modern civilisation. Difficult times, both on the world scene and at home with
homelessness, rough sleeping and waiting lists on the rise. Our own council faced with
massive debt as central government has sought to balance the books.

After all the pomp of Christmas, the angels, and shepherds, the wise men, Jesus and his
family found themselves on the road to Egypt, so Matthew’s Gospel tells us, fleeing the
wrath of the government. The saviour of the world seeking refuge in a foreign and
unfriendly place before returning north to Nazareth where he would grow up. Indeed, we
hear a good deal of Jesus walking the roads of Palestine, raising the dust, with his disciples
in train. It wasn’t a very settled life for him and eventually the Romans would kill him as a
rebel leader, a pretender from the North. Wars, refugees, rebellion. Part of the Christian
story and part of what Jesus came to bring to an end – the Prince of Peace.

There’s a poem by Minnie Haskins which lots of us will have read before – about putting our
hand into the hand of God to offer us a safe way into the future. God knows, we all need
some help and may God be there for all those who reach out to him in whatever
circumstances they find him this New Year.

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