Dear Friends

As I write this, we are in the depths of winter, which in our part of the world can seem mild, but, knowing the unpredictability of our climate, by the time you read this anything could have happened!

Usually one can see a few branches down following the gales of the previous few weeks, but I'm always amazed, when walking through any wooded area, to see two or three saplings growing out of seemingly lifeless tree trunks. Nature is remarkable in its ability to renew itself and so, although January is a time of apparent deadness, underneath the surface new life is just waiting to burst forth - and this encourages us, as we enter a new year, to do so full of hope and expectation.

The image of the Jesse tree, based upon the passage from the eleventh chapter of Isaiah which speaks of a shoot coming out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch coming out of his roots, is often depicted in stained glass windows and other ecclesiastical art, as an old man, reclining, with a vigorous tree growing out of his navel! Jesse was the father of King David, who proved to be a vigorous and youthful monarch, full of promise - and that promise was eventually to be fulfilled when Jesus was born of David's line.

We continue the Christmas theme in Church with Epiphany, or the 'showing forth' of Jesus as the Messiah, as we recall the Gospel narrative concerning the wise men who came to pay their respects to Mary's infant son, who was destined to fulfil God's promise of salvation for us all.

And, 2000 years later, Jesus still brings joy and hope to millions around the world. A happy and joyful new year to you all.

Stephen