"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
"What a year 2019 promises to be!" I wonder what your reaction is as you read that? I have just returned from our monthly Church Meeting and one of the items on the agenda was the proposed programme of events for our 350th anniversary. Next year, Tilehouse Street Baptist Church will be celebrating 350 years of ministry and mission in Hitchin! Amazing! And that may have been what came to mind when you read my question.
However, for others of you, 2019 can only mean one thing; and March 29th in particular. We all voted back in 2016 on June 23rd and ever since then hardly a day has gone by without Brexit being in the news. And so rather than joyfully looking forward to the celebrations of 2019, the new year brings anxiety and worry on a scale we've not known for a long time.
Brexit was also mentioned at the Church Meeting because our church's life is intertwined with the nation's life and that day had seen the Prime Minister determined to get her Brexit withdrawal deal through despite seemingly endless opposition. Uncertainty, anxiety, despair seemed to filter through the news minute by minute.
And so, it was important then and it continues to be important now as you read this to reflect again on the words of Psalm 46:
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10 'Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.'
11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
In every aspect of life; in the joy of celebration of 350 years witness; in the uncertainty of Brexit; in the joys and anxieties of our every-day lives:
"The Lord of hosts is with us, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear."
Remember that in all the days that lie ahead.
And of course, at this time of the year, we are also blessed with another reminder that "the Lord of hosts is with us." God didn't just tell us he was with us through the words of the psalmist, he proved it by coming and actually being with us.
Immanuel. God with us. Jesus Christ. The Son of God. Born as a baby. Who by his Holy Spirit is with you and me, with all of us, always.
As we enter 2019 may we remember the promises of God and hold them firm, trusting him, confident of his love; knowing that whatever the future holds, "the Lord of hosts is with us."
May your Christmas be filled with joy, with peace and with love — and 2019 with hope.