2017 Theme: Hold Fast
“[God] called you through the gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14-17)
2016 has been a memorable year! Many of those memories will, I am sure, be happy ones but over the last 12 months we have all also lived through some disturbing times. For some there has been particular sadness brought about by illness, bereavement and other personal trials. On a wider level there has been a level of political and social upheaval that is almost unprecedented in our lifetime. The migrant crisis, terrorist attacks, Brexit and the US elections have all played a part in creating a general sense of uncertainty and insecurity. Sadly, it looks as if there is huge potential for 2017 to be an equally unsettling year for many of us.
It is particularly good, therefore, to be writing these words at Christmas time with St John’s beautiful prologue ringing in my ears from our Carol Services, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5). We might be walking through dark times but it is important for us to remember that we have been given the words of life and light that cannot be quenched by that darkness.
On various occasions in the Old Testament, on their journey to the Promised Land, the children of Israel were encouraged to hold fast to God and to his law which was their hope – their assurance of future peace and well-being. Many years later, when Paul was writing to the new church in Thessalonica, we encounter another group of believers who appear to be living in unsettling times. Paul’s message, much as Moses before him, was that they had a sure support in every difficulty – in this case not the Law, by Christ’s Gospel. Their hope lay in holding fast to the gospel of love and peace.
So as we head into 2017, I can think of no better advice for the coming year than that of Moses and Paul. The world around us might seem like a somewhat dark, confusing and unsettling place at the moment, but we have the assurance that if we hold fast to the gospel, allow God’s love to work in and through us, then will we walk in that unquenchable light. And if we can do that, both individually and as a Christian community here in Aquitaine, then we might also be able to take some of that light into the lives of those around us allowing them to experience the much-needed hope and peace of God’s love.