The hope of real love.

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Picture by Ellie Leach


The Word become flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

As Share The Hope draws to a close for this year, we thought we’d finish with a look back at the reflections from the last few weeks. Some of the stories we’ve read and videos we’ve watched have been heartbreakingly honest, and it has been so inspiring to be allowed a glimpse into people’s lives.

Here’s a few things we want to encourage you to take away from this year’s Share the Hope…

Sharing

As we have seen in the posts, there are many people going through or who have gone through some really tough times, whether that be bereavement, health problems or personal crisis. The world we live in can be a scary, lonely and hurtful place when we face life alone. The idea of the ‘Daily Share’  is to encourage you to play a part in making the world a better place for people, one small action at a time. So we would encourage you to continue doing this throughout the year. You can make up your own daily shares or have a look at sites like random acts of kindness and 40 Acts for ideas!

Hope

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Hope can mean something different to everyone. It can be found in an encouraging word from a friend, a thumbs up from the boss, or even a post on an online advent calendar! We have highlighted in Share the Hope, a few lines from an Emily Dickinson poem as seen in the picture above.

But, how can you keep that hope that never stops? Well, each person that wrote one of this year’s reflections, knows a hope beyond compare, that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus

I’m sure the writers from Share The Hope would agree that they only got through their difficult situations and through normal life because of an experience of, or relationship with, Jesus. Today’s passage from John 1:14 tells us that Jesus, the Son of God, came down from his Father in heaven to be with and like us, he gave up being on his glorious and wonderful throne to be born into a stable and eventually to die, for each of us. Which is a staggering and almost incomprehensible thought. It would be difficult enough to go through that torture and execution for someone who loved you, but to go through it for people like us who constantly reject and mock him? Now that is real love.

And yet, we get the chance to respond to him. In Romans 10:19 in the bible, it says “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised from the dead, you will be saved.” It’s as easy as that! Jesus has his hand eternally stretched out to you; all you have to do is grab it!

So, we’ll leave you with this video, we highlighted it last year, but it’s just so good that we’re using it again. Give it a watch and if you have questions, or want to know more about Jesus, faith or just about hope, do drop us a message…

 

Lastly we wish you a very happy, peaceful and hope-filled Christmas

With love and blessings from The Share the Hope Team

 

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Symbols of Hope

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Martin Leach in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Temperatures are checked several times daily.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 

Matthew 2:11-12

 

ebola1Each time I see an ambulance going down the road with a police escort, the driver dressed in face mask and all the protective kit, I take a deep breath and wait for it to pass by. It scares me. And today we learned that the eighth Sierra Leonean doctor has died from Ebola, and that the infection is spreading fastest here in Freetown – literally just outside my door.

This news really gives me the chills. We thought we were doing well: treatment centres being built, medical teams arriving, and people getting the ‘ABC’ message – avoid bodily contact. My bit of the jigsaw is to deploy and manage United Nations Coordination Teams across the country; to solve problems and help link all the activities together. I am doing this mostly from a desk and phone in the National Ebola Centre, so it is a low risk job, but I do also get outside the compound’s guarded walls to visit the field teams. But now with this news I am thinking again about the risks of being here: ebola2Might I get it? Am I always taking all the right precautions? What’s the family thinking back home?

And that’s where the Three Kings come in: like the shepherds, they came and brought to Jesus the very best they could offer. Gold, frankincense and myrrh – rich, costly, and precious symbols of the hope that Jesus brings. I think that the people who are bringing genuinely sacrificial offerings here in Sierra Leone are the thousands of brave people putting their lives at risk working on the front line. Yes, there are some doctors and nurses from abroad, but there are many, many ordinary local people taking part to give their country and people a hope of defeating this horrible disease – the chlorine sprayers, the motorbike riders who carry blood samples for testing, the grave diggers, the people tracing all the infection contacts. They do this at tremendous risk to themselves, since over a hundred health workers have died so far, and with minimal reward.

ebola3I meet many people who bring other sources of hope too – there is a woman pastor who turns up at my office every morning at 8 0’clock with her Bible to pray for those of us involved in the work. Others are looking after the children of Ebola victims – it’s often a double tragedy, losing their parents and being shunned by your community because of the stigma of the disease.

I came to Freetown because I wanted to help in the crisis and had the skills and opportunity to do so. Local people volunteer because they want to give hope to their people and to their country. They are the people bringing the really costly gifts at Christmas time.

 

martin leachMartin Leach

Martin is an aid worker with the Department for International Development, and has been based in Freetown, Sierra Leone, helping with the fight against Ebola. This piece was written at the beginning of December 2014.

 

 

Daily Share

We aren’t all called to go abroad, or into such challenging situations as Martin, but it is good to remember that we can always do something to help those around us. Martin mentions the locals in areas of Sierra Leone, who have been volunteering to help in their own communities, so today we want to challenge you to think about whether you could spare a few hours to volunteer somewhere? Is there a local school, organisation or charity that needs help? If you can’t help regularly perhaps you could do something as one off?

What can you do to give hope to people in your community?

 

 

A Star of Hope

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After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Matthew 2:9-10

 

One of the brightest stars I’ve ever seen was shining directly above the bedroom of a ten-year-old girl who lived in an ordinary cul-de-sac on the south coast of England.

Five days earlier she’d been walking to school with a friend and never arrived. I was one of the reporters dispatched to the seaside town to cover the story for a national newspaper. As the hours passed it looked increasingly likely the girls had been abducted.

I spent my days hanging around the police station, covering press conferences and waiting for updates. The best case scenario was that they’d run away. The worst case I didn’t want to consider. Sadly, I was well-versed in covering stories of missing children who didn’t return safely. As a rookie reporter I’d spent several days in Reading Crown Court listening to harrowing evidence given by a notorious paedophile about the final hours of a little boy. I knew that the world was not ‘safe’ and that people were literally capable of anything.

By this stage in my career, though, I liked to think that I was a seasoned hack. I was tough, I could cope. But I was also very tired; despondent and dispirited. So maybe it wasn’t such a surprise to find myself sitting in my hotel room one evening, sobbing after covering a press conference with the family.

I certainly wasn’t a Christian at the time and hadn’t ‘been to church’ for years although I did believe in God. But the country was praying for the return of these little girls and I found myself joining them. I prayed a lot over the next few days.

Then rumours started to circulate that they’d been found and I’ll never forget the elation amongst the media pack when we were told the girls were safe. That night we gathered outside that little girl’s house, hoping for a quote from a family member or a glimpse of the child herself. And suddenly there she was in her pyjamas waving at us from her bedroom window. I knew that stories don’t always have happy endings and wondered too what had happened to her in the short time she was being held against her will. But I looked up into the clear sky above that family home and, like the travellers who were seeking Christ, I saw the brightest star and was filled with joy, and hope.

And looking back now 15 years later I can see that this sparked something in my soul that started me on my own personal journey towards a God of love and a new beginning.

 

sarahLothianSarah Lothian

Sarah is a freelance journalist with more than 20 years of experience in print media and television.

 

 

 

 Daily Share

Are you tired today? Maybe a little bit despondent? Sarah talks of feeling like this and yet being filled with joy and hope on seeing a star in the sky. Who are the people in your life that bring you joy and hope? Today, let them know how much they mean to you. Drop them a text or give them a call and in turn you will bring some joy and hope into their lives too.

 

Hope in all Circumstances

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When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
 are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
 who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.

Matthew 2: 3-8

 

Today’s reflection is a video from Andy & Emma Dipper, who are linked with CSW – Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Release International. Watch the video by clicking on the image above.

 

Daily Share

Andy & Emma talked about how those being persecuted gather to pray for others around the world. It’s very easy to get bogged down in our own ‘stuff’, so today we encourage you to think of people across the world who might be living in worse conditions than you or dealing with worse problems than you. 

Can you spare a prayer today for some of them? CSW have a daily prayer list on their website suggesting people and places to pray for, so why not have a look at that for some suggestions.

Prayer is a funny thing, many people find themselves offering a prayer or a thought even when they don’t have a defined faith. So whatever ‘prayer’ means to you today, even if it is just sparing a thought for others, try and spend a few minutes today doing that.

A Journey of Hope

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After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2: 1-2

 

The Magi, or the wise men as we often call them, travelled for miles to visit the baby Jesus all because they saw a star. These were men who studied the stars and when they saw a new star they knew that something truly special was happening. So special, that they felt compelled to make a long, perilous journey all without knowing exactly what they were going to find at the end of it.

We are all on a journey in our lives but how many of us have seen a sign so special that we have dropped all we are doing and gone after it with everything we have? When was the last time we saw a sign in the heavens? You might think that something like that could never happen to you. But what if there is a sign for us but we are not looking for it, or seeing it in the right way? We must remember that the wise men were astronomers: they were star experts! When a new star appears for an astronomer, they notice and they do something about it whereas other may not even notice its appearance! That sign fit them. But what if they had missed it?

I wasn’t looking for a long time. I have always been interested in the Bible, I volunteered to work in Canterbury Cathedral and I even thought I would go on to be a lecturer in theology – all without realising that perhaps God was trying to tell me something! All it took for me was to go to a church service for the first time and like that star appearing to the wise men – BOOM! – I believed and I had to do something about it!

It’s different for everybody. God is with us all in our lives, in our experiences. What is right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. We might think that since we have not experienced something as dramatic as the wise men, why should we look for God? But God doesn’t just speak to certain people. It is important that the wise men were from a far off land – they were not Jews. The Jews believed that the Messiah was only coming for them – but some of the first people at the crib of Jesus were foreigners, people that the Jews would have excluded. Jesus is for everyone: in quiet ways, in loud ways, in good times and in bad. Nobody is unworthy, everyone is welcome. A simple word from a friend, a scene in a film, or hearing a verse from scripture could be the blazing star for you.

We are all on a journey and we can have hope like the wise men did that at the end, under our own individual stars, there is a Lord who will meet us face to face one day. Our Lord loves us and wants to show us what true life is like and whilst he will be there at the end of the journey, the miracle of our Lord is that he is with us every step of the way, if only we look for him. 

dannyPDanny Pegg 

Danny is a ‘vocational discerner’ in the Diocese of Chichester who will be finding out if he is to be recommended to train to be a priest in January. He volunteers with Soul by the Sea, a charity that produce scripture-based drama performances and writes plays himself. He is also quite chuffed that he has been promoted from ‘Shepherd Number 2’ to ‘Narrator’ in his church’s upcoming Nativity Carol Service. 

 

Daily Share

Just as the Magi went to a new place and found God in the manger, today’s share challenges you to go on a mini-journey. Why don’t you try going to a place you have never been before, and seeing if you can find God there? God might be a word, a picture or a feeling. You might like to ask God to show you the way on your journey and look for the answer there. Just be ready to receive that answer – it might come in a way you had never expected!

Share your mini-journey on Facebook or Twitter, you never know, it may well be a sign for someone else!

Come set aside the thoughts of the day…

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When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2: 17-20

 

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Today’s reflection is a song from Stuart Barbour, entitled ‘Forever and Always’. You can listen to the song by clicking on the picture above. Stu is a singer songwriter and also the Worship Pastor at The Point Church.

Daily Share

The passage today and Stu’s song both talk of glorifying and praising God. Christians believe that part of this is being thankful for the blessings that God has given to us. So today we want to challenge you, whatever you believe, to make a list of 5 things that you are thankful for, whatever they are, big or small; your house or the lovely cake you just ate!

The first line of the song is ‘Come set aside the thoughts of the day…‘ So take some time to do this, put aside all that is going on in your day and spend a few minutes thinking before you make your list. When you are done, then share your list with someone, or if you are brave enough, onto our Facebook page!

A seed of hope

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
Luke 2: 15-16
 
shepherdsOne of the things that hope does to us is give us the strength and the energy to respond.  The shepherds had the most amazing, terrifying, overwhelming experience, thousands of angels appearing to them, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, and delivering the news of Jesus’ birth to them, in person, and to no one else!  It must have been mind blowing.  They were in total shock.  Nothing like this had ever happened before.  
 
The whole experience gave them hope: hope that they were not forgotten; hope that God is real and was coming to rescue them; hope that a better future was coming.  But they did not just sit there and wait for things to unfold, they got up and “hurried off” down to Bethlehem.  They didn’t know exactly where Jesus would be, they had no idea what they would find when they got there.  How could they even really be sure this was all real?  But the encounter with the angels gave them such hope and expectation that they simply had to get down there and see for themselves.  They left their sheep, they took a risk, they stepped out in faith. They responded.
 
I remember when I first heard about my current job.  I remember the phone call, ‘Hi Will, a few of us have been thinking about starting a new church here in Mid Sussex, how about coming down to be the vicar?’  That phone call planted a seed of hope in me.  I was quite low at the time.  I had been looking for a job for ages.  Suddenly I had new energy.  I started to dream about what might be, to plan how to start this new project, to think about who to talk to.  I prayed.  I made phone calls.  I arranged meetings.  Within a few months everything was in place: the team was assembled, the funding was promised, the Bishop was on board, the house was bought, the children had school places, we were ready to go!
 
Jesus gives us hope!  No matter how bad things look, now matter how many setbacks we face, the Prince of Peace promises to make everything right in the end for all who respond to Him.  We have a hope that will not disappoint us.  But we have to respond.  If you just sit on the hillside and ignore the angels, nothing is going to change.
 
 
will2Will Kemp
Will loves Caroline, the most beautiful, wise, kind, caring woman in the world, and their three amazing sons, Jonny, Lukas and Joshua.  Will also loves Watford FC, BBC Sport, playing cricket, golf, squash, snooker etc, Michael Jackson, Corduroy (what ever happened to them?), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Bourne, Bond, and real ale.  He is Vicar of The Point, Anglican Network Church for Mid Sussex.

Daily Share

Hope gives you the energy to respond!  Is there something you have been meaning to respond to but have been putting off?  A difficult phone call? A bill to pay? A job that needs doing? A new project that needs starting? An invitation waiting for an answer? Do it today! Chose to see the situation with fresh hope, then respond.