Dear Friends

Happy New Year and a Parish welcome to 2023.

Brad Zomick, co-founder of Skilled up, listed his top 10 New Year resolutions for sparking positive change. He quoted the following: exercise more, lose weight, get organised, learn a new skill or hobby, live life to the fullest, save more money / spend less money, quit smoking, spend more time with family and friends, travel more and read more. The sad reality is that only 46% of those who made these resolutions were successful. That means over half of the people who set a goal for the new year will fail!

Positive change doesn’t only rest on what we’re able to determine or direct but on God’s guidance, particularly, our response to life’s unexpected encounters. The 73rd chapter of Psalms bible reading cites: “You will keep on guiding me all my life with your wisdom and counsel; and afterwards, receive me into the glories of heaven”. The question is does this matter? I would like to suggest a personal yes. Many people outside the church may find it difficult to believe in divine guidance and are puzzled by the quiet confidence of Christians who claim that the Almighty God is interested in the tiniest details of their lives. However, because of God’s revelation in the Bible, we dare believe that He cares for us, loves us, and is vitally interested in the way we go. God’s care continues despite our circumstances like some of the above resolutions or poor finances, ill-health, family issues and bereavement. It is often in our reflections of the events that we attest to being guided.

The above Psalmist rested time and time again on the simple fact that God was guiding him and knew from experience the secret whispering of God within his ear. In other cases though, some of us will miss those promptings of the assurances that God is with us. I understand and that can be difficult. Sometimes, we only have our faith to hang on in the circumstances and so we rely on the encouraging words of the 11th chapter of the Hebrews bible reading: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation”. Our personal faith coupled with prayers are important to sustain our hope against life’s headwinds.

We are all facing in the Claydons, as well as across the nation, the challenges of higher bills due to energy and inflation, hidden pockets of poverty and desperation, broken families, loneliness and ongoing trauma. As a Church we do not claim to have all the answers but we can as a group support you through our regular prayers, offer a warm invite into our church community, assist with Age UK’s befriending, provide a warm space for belonging, propose emergency food support with Buckinghamshire Council referrals and, finally, company for those lonely moments. These may just be enough to help you make it through the winter months and beyond, where new opportunities emerge.

An alternative quote to Brad Zomick would be the following of Edith Lovejoy Pierce: “We open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called ‘Opportunity’ and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” What words should we add for New Year’s Day and thereafter? My first words would be “happiness” , “thankfulness” and “gift of a new year”. I would then underline those words with the following bible quote of the 25th chapter of Psalms: “Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow”. The assurance that God does guide us will gives us a backbone on which all the other bones of life are fastened in these challenging times. Without this, life will sometimes be spineless and disjointed.

May I offer the following prayer for all in need of comfort during the month of January 2023: “Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy during this new year of uncertainty and distress or perhaps opportunity. Sustain and support me. Lift me up when I am low and help me to be thankful when I am up. I want to rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate me from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen”.

Happy New Year with love