I don't find it easy to look back on the 'year that's been'.
The problem is that too often I feel like my reflections are forced, and a little fake. Each year seems to roll into the next with little change. Even the big events that life throws up like drought and fire, birth and death while profound, are often somewhat expected. So I get asked about the lessons of the past 12 months and I have no idea what to say.
2021 has been anything but a normal year. Thankfully COVID is the kind of thing most of us will likely only experience once in our lives. At least I hope that proves to be the case! What this pandemic has meant, is that for the last two years, our lives have been reshaped in big ways and we have each had to learn how to cope with that.
Yet for all of the disruption to normal routine, the uncertainty in making plans and the new habits and skills we have had to learn, it has been the 'ordinary miracles' which God just keeps working for which I am most thankful.
I have loved watching my kids grow and learn. I have appreciated deepening friendships. And while I always love watching the footy, this year served up the rare pleasure of a Penrith Panthers Grand Final win!
Yet I write this as a church minister, and if one thing stands out above all else it is the great joy of seeing the very real difference Jesus makes in people's lives
This is something that I have seen in the smaller moments of life. People helping one another move house. Church members cooking meals for others who are unwell.
I have seen it in life's most profound moments as people have walked along side one another in times of profound hardship and grief. I see it every Sunday morning when a group of people come together who we might naturally expect to have nothing to do with each other.
Yet they gather, bound by a faith who's ability to draw together transcends the issues of age, class, politics and all else which so often divide us.
Most wonderfully I have even had the privilege of seeing the lights 'come on', as people have come to really understand the joy of life with Jesus for the first time.
Of course, I could have written this reflection in past years as well. These ordinary miracles have been a part of every church I have been a part of throughout my life.
However I also believe that the challenges of 2021 have served to help us learn to take Jesus' call to love God with all we are and to love our neighbours as ourselves more seriously.
As was true in each of the 2020 years since that fist Christmas, 2021 was a year in which despite the ups and the downs we've all experienced, the message of Jesus continued to sweep people up and change their lives.
And this is what excites me for 2022!
While we all hope that next year will be a far more normal year than the last two years have been, I am sure it will have its own challenges and struggles. But one thing is certain.
Jesus is going to continue to give joy and purpose to his people. He is going to continue to change them.
He will never stop spurring us on to walk more closely to his good purposes.
As I hear people in our own church family talk about ways in which they hope to serve God in the new year, I can't help but get excited for the very ordinary miracles God just doesn't stop working.
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