President's Christmas Message: Hope

During 2018, a number of important milestones were remembered which brought new hope of a brighter future, such as the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, but others, brought into sharp focus the pain, suffering and darkness of our troubled past.  Most recently, it reappeared with the brutal murder of a father waiting to collect his 13 year old son outside a school in West Belfast.
 
It was also the year in which we commemorated the centenary of the ending of the First World War - the war that was to "end all wars" yet we are still witnessing the distress and awful consequences caused by wars around the world to this day.  The casualties in such conflicts include children dying through food and medicine shortages, with powerless mothers looking on with faces that seem to say "There is no hope"
 
Hope is a characteristic which is in short supply in many quarters today.  At a time when the country is so divided over issues like Brexit and has no local functioning Executive or Assembly, it is not easy to convince people that there is hope when everything outwardly appears to militate against it. This lack of hope is a global issue as many countries strive to cope with all kinds of domestic crises with diminishing resources. The words of Isaiah the prophet are very apt "Then they will look towards the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness" (Isaiah 8:22)
 
However, the prophet speaks of a time when "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light"(9:2)
One way we celebrate Christmas is with the switching on of sparkling lights across the world to celebrate this very special season.  But what make Christmas truly special is the coming of Jesus Christ who said "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12)
 
Human resources on their own are insufficient to put right the problems facing the world. Mary and Joseph faced many challenges on the first Christmas as they made their way to Bethlehem, when Mary gave birth to the Saviour of the world.  In her Magnificat, Mary doesn't focus on the magnitude of their dire circumstances, but on the greatness of her God and her life is filled with hope and gratitude. She said "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour (Luke 2:46)  As we receive the gift of Christ by God's grace our spirits are lifted above the gloom and despondency around us us find fresh resources of peace and hope and the joy of sins forgiven.
 
Happy Christmas,
 
Rev. Billy Davison
President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
14th December 2018