As I write this on the last day of the year 2020 I, like so many others, am looking back on 2020 – the most extraordinary year in my lifetime. Though I have recently been reminded by someone who lived and worked through the 2nd World War, that those were dark days too with rationing of food and clothes, and saying goodbye to loved ones not knowing whether you would ever see them again.
But what we do see when wars or pandemics break out (and I am not suggesting here that this past year has been a place of war – though much unhelpful language has conveyed that), is community coming together, and much kindness shown in so many different ways.
During Advent and Christmas we have been thinking about love, joy, peace, hope and light – and rightly so – I preached on Christmas Eve about the true light, the Light of the World coming into the world and the darkness could not overcome it. However, I think the Queen said it more eloquently than me in her Christmas Message on Christmas Day! Of course, we pray for that love, joy, peace, hope and love shown in the Incarnation – the Word made flesh – to sustain us as we move forward into a new year, a year that continues to be uncertain. And as Christians we carry and convey that love, joy, peace, hope and light to others, especially to those who are struggling, isolated, alone; and know no love, joy, peace or hope, but rather find themselves in a place of great darkness.
But over these past few days I have been thinking about kindness & generosity, two of the Fruit of the Spirit, as are love, joy and peace (Gal 5. vv 22 – 26). Kindness has been the word I have been reflecting on, but I don’t think one can offer kindness without generosity. To show kindness you need to have a generous heart as one gives of one’s time, gifts, skills, creativity, money, compassion, and so much more.
As I have said we go into 2021 still very uncertain of the future, though we give thanks for the time, gifts, skills, compassion and money that has provided us with two vaccines – praise God.
I believe kindness can sustain us in uncertain times – an act of kindness to another mirrors the love of Jesus Christ. It may be a small act or a large act, but sometimes we are totally unaware what effect that might have on another. In times of lockdown and isolation it probably has been the card, email, text, phone call/message. It may be having received a food parcel or meal; help with debt; a walk in the park; unexpected gift, smile, help with shopping. It may be someone praying for you, giving you a scripture just at the right moment, taking you to church, a word of encouragement. The other day I was hurt by someone, but it was an act of kindness of someone leaving a message on my phone that lifted my spirit, and I didn’t feel alone – someone had noticed. Perhaps it felt like a small act of kindness from that person – but it was a big act to me.
So much kindness has been shown to others by the family of St. Mark’s, in so many different ways, for which I give great thanks. But let’s not give up on this Fruit of the Spirit as we go into 2021 – let us be generous with our kindness to one another, and be kind to ourselves as well – that is not so easy! The Apostle Paul having proclaimed the Fruit of the Spirit, says, ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit’. I pray at the beginning of this new year that we will be a people of God who live by the Spirit and are guided by the Spirit in all that we do, say and think: showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
And may you know the resurrection hope, and light of Christ this year of 2021.