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Hello, I’m Mark Vainikka, bishop of the Lutheran Church of Australia, Queensland District.
This New Year brings us to the dawn of the commencement of our third year living amid a global health pandemic. The coming days, weeks and months, are likely to be tinged with the dark hues of COVID. Up to this point, we have been blessed in Queensland that our infection rates have been low. This, however, is now rapidly changing.
As case numbers increase, it is likely that many of our members and friends will be affected in a personal way by this pandemic. This can place emotional and psychological stress on many. I especially think of our frail, elderly, and immune-compromised community members in our congregations and across our Lutheran Services sites. At our Lutheran Services sites, work continues to keep our much-loved residents and staff safe during this challenging time. Our teams continue to go above and beyond the call of duty, in responding to the challenges of this health pandemic.
For many people, in many places, this is a time when nerves are tense, and when a great deal of anxiety hovers over the common life. We can be apprehensive and anxious about 2022, worried for ourselves and our loved ones. For Christians, like for anyone, there will be times of uncertainty, there will be sickness, loneliness, seasons of frustration, periods of darkness and ultimately a season of death and dying.
While God does not lift us above the challenges of daily life, the message of a baby in a manger, reminds us that God has become one of us and continues to journey with us amongst the challenges of daily life. Hence, Christianity’s message is inherently hope-filled. While we don’t know what the future holds, we know who holds the future.
We have confidence that God is faithful and that he does not abandon us in this time of pandemic, but he continues to journey with us into this New Year. The God who came to us as a baby in a manger, is the same God who says to us in the words of Isaiah 41:10 at the beginning of this New Year: ‘Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.’
As 2021 becomes a distant memory and a New Year dawns, wherever you are, whatever you are going through, whatever your fears and sorrows and joys are at the moment: ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine on you and to be gracious to you, may the Lord look upon you with favour and give you his peace. Amen.’