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As an eight-year-old, I can remember walking to primary school and passing groups of intimidating teenagers loitering and laughing as they made their way to the high school at the opposite end of town. I hoped that one day I would be as tall as them and no longer feel so small and vulnerable. It was only a few years later and I was the high school pupil looking down on the young ones. My hope had been fulfilled.

As a teenager I hoped that one day I would feel normal and no longer be the gangling, awkward, spotty and embarrassed individual that I had become. Hopes of ever having a girlfriend were a distant dream. Yet today, at 62, I am a grandfather with a wonderful wife, two impressive sons and grandchildren. Sometimes miracles happen, hopes and dreams are fulfilled!

Our personal hopes may sound silly when we reveal them but, actually, they are very important. In the Bible, Proverbs 13 verse 12 says that ‘Hopes deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.’ It is good to have hopes, desires, dreams and ambitions. They often motivate us to give more effort than we might otherwise do. When our hopes are fulfilled, sometimes despite ourselves, we are encouraged to have greater faith.

When our hopes are frustrated, or opportunities stifled, life can become a very negative experience. Indeed, to lose hope, to become hopeless, is to be extremely vulnerable. In this edition I have included a Justice & Coffee podcast interview with Claire, a young lady from England who was trafficked to France and forced into sex work. It is remarkable because she survived. She almost lost hope and even now, seven years later, she finds it very hard to talk of having hopes for the future. But hope remains.

In this time of uncertainty, many of us are having to learn to live life a day at a time. Trying to disciple ourselves not to worry about tomorrow can be a constant struggle. We want to plan for the future, to know where we will spend our holidays and who we might be able to share them with. But at the moment these things are not possible. Should I abandon my hopes? Is it better not to think about the future? I don’t think so. I still want to have dreams, ambitions and hopes, they can drive me forward and build my faith.

As a vaccine comes closer, it may not be so long before the pandemic comes under control. When it does, we will slowly discover what the new normal is. It is my hope that the lessons I have learned will not be lost or forgotten. I will still need to live a day at a time, not to worry about tomorrow, but to daily trust my future into the hands of my Creator.

In recent days, I have been drawn to two famous phrases that have built my hope. One comes from the wonderful hymn, Great is thy Faithfulness, which proclaims God's desire to provide us with ‘Faith for today and bright hope for tomorrow’. The other is that of St Julian of Norwich, 'All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well'.

It is my hope that, despite the disruption, you will have a very happy Christmas and a bright future.