#National News

NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2021 BY THE RT. REVEREND JAMES ALLEN YAW ODICO BISHOP ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF GAMBIA

Jan 4, 2021, 1:25 PM

Fellow Gambians and all God’s People,

The year 2020 will be recorded as one of the most nerve-wracking period in global history. The COVID 19 pandemic has not only been a grave distraction to global development, but has caused distressing political, social and economic wounds in the world, causing enormous physical and mental pain on the human race. What is most shocking and threatening is the sharp surge in the second wave of confirmed new COVID 19 cases, that tends to be unrelenting, particularly in the major economies of the globe.

Back here in The Gambia, aside from the COVID 19 devastation on our development agenda, there are dark shadows that frustrate our national reform process including the 2020 Constitution promulgation Bill that could not go through parliament because of some flaws. As the world bids farewell to the year 2020, many are worried and nervous as to what the New Year 2021 brings.  As we reflect on the prospects of the New Year, let us take cue from Apostle Paul’s message to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJ)

We have a reason to give thanks to God. When one considers the state of our health system and our cultural practices, it is amazing to fathom what miracle has saved the Gambia from the pangs of COVID 19. However, the following quotation from the book of Isaiah sums it up.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV)

The COVID 19 pandemic and all the ugly and devastating events of the year 2020 are gravely destructive and need our utmost attention. However, the gravest and darkest pandemic that “can destroy both soul and body in hell” is our ancestor Adam’s disobedience that separated humankind from God. Notwithstanding, God our creator and merciful Father, in His love, sent His only Son Jesus Christ as the sacrificial lamb to redeem us from the wages of sin so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Isaiah, like other Old Testament prophets, foretold this redemption, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV)

In fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesies, the angel of the Lord broke the news to a band of shepherds tending their flocks in a nearby field: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12 NIV).

Fellow Gambians and all God’s people, a great company of the heavenly host reinforced the breaking news as they suddenly appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV).

The shepherds demonstrated the importance of the good news by putting all other businesses behind them in order to witness and confirm the breaking news. After the shepherds had confirmed the news, they spread the information concerning what they heard and witnessed, and their audience was amazed.

“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 2:20 NIV)

Friends the COVID 19 pandemic and its accompanied dark shadows during the year 2020 would obviously be a cause for concern and should be strategically addressed with the Government taking the lead. However, like the shepherds, we must confidently welcome the New Year “glorifying and praising God for” the good news of His love in the redemption of humanity.

Beloved people of God, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.” (Hebrews 10:4-6 NIV)

Friends, by just one sacrifice Christ has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The Holy Spirit testifies that God will make a new covenant with his people:

“I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” He says, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”

It is therefore obvious that where these sins and lawless acts “have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” (Hebrews 10:14-20)

Beloved people of God, although they may not have got all the details of the breaking news, as we have today,

“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 2:20 NIV)

 As we bid farewell to the year 2020 and welcome the New Year 2021, the outcome of the evaluation of our achievements and challenges during the year under review may seem gloomy. However, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJ)

Friends, Jesus loves us; He told his disciples that there is no love greater than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. He demonstrated this love on the Cross of Calvary. He died to redeem us from the slavery of sin and death and to give us eternal life.  We only need to have faith in Him and claim the promise. Jesus describes his friends as those who follow his command; which is to love one another as he loves us. (John 15:13-15)

The priority for our resolutions for the New Year must be “to love one another just as Christ loves us”.

Love involves caring for one another. It is being a good shepherd of Christ’s flock. He commanded St. Peter to feed his sheep as a demonstration of his love. (John 21:15-17)

Love enhances joy. Jesus promises, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:10-11 NIV)

Fellow Gambians, if we apply love in the new window of opportunity to review the draft for the 2021 Constitution Promulgation Bill, we will objectively exercise justice to this crucial document, putting aside our political, religious, and all anti-development interests, and will prudently consider the equal rights and dignity of all for the common good of our beloved nation.

Moreover, as we approach election let us be a model for other nations. Let us pursue peace and love, putting our beloved nation above all other interests. Let us portray true love so that people will experience the joy of healthy competition and patriotism.

Friends, before we draw the curtain, permit me to remind you that COVID 19 is still around. Therefore, let us be vigilant and continue to follow the health guidelines.

We fervently pray that God, in His mercy, may halt the spread of the virus and restore our economies in the entire world in Jesus’ Name.

On behalf of the Anglican family in the Diocese of Gambia, I wish the Head of state, the Government, and the people of our beloved nation, The Gambia; our mission partners, our brothers and sisters in the Muslim fraternity, people of other faiths, and well-wishers: God’s Peace and prosperity, good health, and wellbeing, as well as a fruitful and blessed New Year. 

I love you all. To God be the glory

+James The Gambia

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