Rector’s Letter – December 2017

“Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” [Mark 5:36 (NLT)]

Dear folks,

What’s the difference between speculation and anticipation? Probably much the same as between worry and faith/hope.

Speculation is often unfounded guesswork. We see it every time a news story is unfolding as journalists throw all kinds of scenarios around as they desperately await definite developments in a story, Brexit deals and Zimbabwe being two current examples (I suspect the latter will have moved on significantly since I wrote this letter).

We could argue that speculation can be educated consideration, but often it is simply just worry.

Anticipation on the other hand is more related to faith in that we know that a particular thing is likely to happen, and we are (trying) to look forward to it with hope.

Advent is a time of anticipation as we look forward to preparation for the spiritual journey that lies ahead. This is nothing new as we all have to do it at many stages of our lives. At present in my own family life there is much going on, and not to speculate about however there is also a great deal of hope.

As many of you know, my dear mum has not been well and the future is not clear (sincere thanks for your prayers for her), but we remain hopeful. Also, our son Ben and his wife Nicole are expecting our first grandchild, due at the end of February. And as I announced in church recently, we will be leaving St Mary’s in early February as I take up my new post as vicar of St John’s Walton, near Chesterfield.

Although the word ‘speculate’ is used in financial circles regarding investments, it rarely has a positive connotation when used in everyday life, and then it has more to do with worry. Jesus said, “So do not worry about tomorrow,” and, “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:25,34)

Positive Mental Attitude is widely recognised as a healthy psychological discipline and many books and self-help guides have been written on the subject. Although not strictly speaking a Christian doctrine it is very much in line with faith. Maybe you, like many of us, are naturally inclined to focus on the negative that might happen rather than allowing yourself to hope for the good, as if this will make things easier to cope with if they do go badly. Some might feel it will provide an opportunity to say, “I was right!”, although I suspect that anyone who feels that ways hopes deep down inside to be proven wrong. And the problem with such negative outlook is that it can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy as a pattern of life.

But, to look at things through the eyes of faith, to see hope where others see impending disaster, to believe that things could work out well, is not only psychologically and emotionally better for us, it is the vocation of the people of God. If anyone had grounds to doubt it was Jairus, who had just been told that his young daughter had already died and to leave Jesus alone. Jesus spoke these words of encouragement to him, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” He speaks the same words to you and me today.

By all means assess and consider how things could go wrong and take sensible steps in preparation, but make a conscious decision to dwell on the good and the promises of God, and what a great opportunity the season of Advent gives us to develop that discipline.

So, whatever is going on in your life right now, whatever hopes and fears may be unsettling you, I pray that together we will learn to grow to trust more and more in the realisation of the promises of God as we look to the future together with hope and faith.

Have a healthy Advent, a wonderful Christmas, and a prosperous New Year.

God bless, Nick.