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J de Groot First Letter

December 2014

Dear Friends,

I write this as my first letter as your minister. After a long wait, I am glad to be here now and to get on with the work of ministry in Glasgow. You will know that from the date of preaching as sole nominee on 8 June until the induction on 13 November much patience has been required from us all. I don’t think this has been an easy time for any party involved, whether Sandyford Henderson or St Stephen’s Comely Bank Church in Edinburgh, or for us personally as a family. However, all that is behind us now and we are grateful to God for what He has been teaching us all through it. We look now to the future and to all that God will do as we seek to be faithful and obedient to Him.

At the outset, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all those who have helped us settle into life in Glasgow. As exiles from the East we love the city and are happy to live here now. Our children, Joshua (9), Matthew (7) and Rebekah (5) are well settled in their new home and schools. Thank you for your prayers for them and us and for the warmth and affection shown to us all over these past months. We have been encouraged by the prayer from the church family and all the kind messages of support. Over the period of moving in we were also touched by the very practical love shown through the generosity of the congregation in gifts and meals and much kindness. It has all helped us easily transition from one city to another city, one home to another home and one church to another church. The high point of all this came at the induction on Thursday 13 November which was a very special evening for us. On that night, we were constantly reminded by all who spoke of the priority of the good news of Jesus Christ and of it being at the very centre and the motivation for all that we do as a church at Sandyford.

I’ll look forward to tackling many matters in the congregational record in the coming months, but for now, Christmas…

What are your expectations this Christmas? A happier marriage? A new job? More money? Less rebellious children? A better life/work balance? A peaceful world? We like to hope that things will get better in our own situation or on the world stage. Christmas and the New Year seem to be a time when we expect things to happen or things to change, hence the re-release of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” to raise funds in the fight against Ebola. This is a great thing to do and we must do what we can to make this world a better place and help those who suffer. However, no matter how much we might sing along to songs like, “We are the world, We are the children, We are the ones who make a brighter day...”, we can’t actually change the world or even our own lives by ourselves. That’s why the Christmas message of the coming of Jesus Christ brings hope because it’s not just about God exceeding our expectations, but about God meeting our deepest need.

Long before Jesus came, the prophet Isaiah (ch.9) spoke about God doing something absolutely astounding. Isaiah’s words are prophecy, written around 700 years before Jesus Christ was born and they speak of a King coming to us who would be the ultimate solution to all the world’s problems and all our problems too.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.”

The child is Jesus Christ, God’s ultimate gift to the world and for our lives. This was a message of great hope for Isaiah’s readers, just as it is for the entire world. Then, the people lived in darkness, gloom and distress when everything seemed hopeless. And as we look at our world today, we can see that nothing has changed. On a global scale, this world is a very dark and dismal place with war, terrorism, evil and greed. On a national scale there is darkness and gloom with the failures of government, the crime, the violence and complete lack of any moral compass. On a personal scale, there is darkness and despair in our lives, our relationships, our families, our work and with our mistakes and failures because we are not the person we ought to be.

Isaiah speaks of the people walking in darkness, a spiritual darkness because of their sin. We know that sin is the root cause of all our problems where the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Our hearts are the source of all the evil, the selfishness, the greed, the arrogance, and the pride that wreaks havoc in our world and in our lives. That’s why God sending Jesus gives each and every one of us tremendous hope. So when Isaiah, in ch.9, speaks of darkness turning to light, fear turning to joy, oppression turning to deliverance and war turning to peace it is a foretelling of all that Jesus Christ would come to do and to bring.

It all sounds too good to be true but this is a fantastic vision of the future. It’s God’s manifesto for how things will be. The good news is that Christianity isn’t just wishful thinking that offers sentimental solutions to the world’s problems, a kind of quick-fix to give us all a better and happier life for the rest of our days on earth. The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ does not just have a personal and short-lived impact; it is rather global and eternal. God has sent help and it has already come because God has sent Jesus, the ultimate King over all people, at all times and in all places. What Jesus would be and do is spelled out in the names given to him.

“And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Jesus is the Wonderful Counsellor and the true source of wisdom. Jesus is the Mighty God, as displayed in his teaching, over sickness, over nature, over death and to forgive sins. Jesus is the Everlasting Father who came to bring us into God’s everlasting family. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, bringing peace between God and human beings and peace between people.

Jesus is the ultimate gift for our world and for our lives. That’s why the message of his coming on that very first Christmas is brilliant for everyone and and everything. God has sent Jesus, who more than meets our expectations for what we want our world to be as well as meets our deepest need. Our deepest need is to have our sins forgiven, totally and freely. So in his love God has given us what we most need through the death of Jesus and so, as a result of this you can be sure that along with him God graciously gives you everything you need (see Romans 8:31-32). It’s this far greater perspective that we need to cope with life in the world. Of course, there is still darkness. That’s because we’re still waiting for God’s kingdom to come in all its fullness but one day it will, of that we can be sure. That’s why Isaiah writes of the future as if it has already happened with Jesus reigning with justice and righteousness forever.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”

Therefore, we can have great expectations this Christmas for ourselves and for our world. God’s King has come and we are grateful for what God has done through Jesus Christ to forgive our sin and give us eternal life. We are also grateful for what God is doing and what He will do in the future through Jesus.

Sheona and the children join me in wishing you a very Happy Christmas. May you, and those whom you love, experience the joy of forgiveness that comes in the gift of the Saviour Jesus, the ultimate King.

Your minister and friend

Jonathan de Groot

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