It is fair to say that many of us were looking to 2021 with eager anticipation, hoping and praying that it would be a different kind of year. For us I think it lasted just two days before we had to change our tentative plans as rules about travel, schools and returns to university began to change. Yet we are all well, were actually able to spend time together as a family over Christmas, and whilst logistics of who is where when change constantly, it is manageable. We know others, as I'm sure you all do, who have had to face much more trying and difficult times over the last year, and will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come.
I've found Romans 8 a real comfort at the beginning of this year. Verses 19 to 22 talk of the whole of creation groaning, eagerly longing to be set free for what is to come. That so resonates doesn't it with a world that is struggling to know how to throw off the shackles of this costly virus, which has really brought home our human fragility.
Yet chapter 8 says so much more. Verses 26 and 27 reflect what so many of us have experienced: "how do we pray into this current situation?" It's so wonderful to read that the Spirit knows and understands these longings and groaning that we have, and turns them into intercessions before the throne of God above. It is why God gives us his Spirit, so that we can do things we could not otherwise do.
This leads us to the point of confidence in verse 31: if God is for us, who can be against us? Of course, it's a rhetorical question. It is clear, that there are many challenges to our human existence, many obstacles put in the way of walking faithfully and obediently with the Lord. Yet Paul wants us to see that these are as nothing compared to the wonder of knowing God in us and God for us. We are not alone or powerless in our struggles.
Which is why we can rejoice in the confidence of verse 37: "in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." God's promise that we are secure in him, and that whatever comes our way, whether it be trouble or illness, even death itself, we will rise victorious with Christ, and overcome. It is such a wonderful hope, that we also see in lots of little ways in our daily lives and in the world around us.
So my hope and prayer is that as we enter this new year, despite, perhaps even because of the challenges ahead, we do so full of hope and love of the God who enables us to overcome, the God who is with us in all of this; Emanuel.