Have you noticed the way that roses and shrubs and bulbs are producing new growth? I have a patch of beautiful snowdrops in the garden and each day there are more and more showing their heads. On some parts of the lawn there is no sign of what will eventually be a carpet of white snowdrops, and then yellow with the daffodils, not forgetting the crocuses – but they don’t last long as the deer seem to have a taste for them.

On Sunday, our Messy Muddy Church gathered in the Rectory garden and the children had fun finding “NEW” things. So the snowdrops and bulbs shooting were seen, but there were also new mushrooms and molehills, and a ‘new’ Christmas tree planted in the garden. During our time sitting around the campfire, we also spoke about experiencing a new day, or a new week – as well as just having begun a new year and a variety of new experiences.

There are many verses in the Bible that talk about “new” things . . .

In Lamentations 3: 22-24 the writer expresses his trust in God because God’s love and compassion never fail; they are new every morning and his experience of God’s faithfulness is enough for him. Each day might bring troubles, but we start each new day afresh – or we can do.

St Paul writing to the Corinthian church explains to them (and us) that with faith in Jesus Christ we can begin a new life. With an acknowledgement of what we have gotten wrong, in seeking forgiveness, believers are made a new creation– the old has gone, the new is here! Letting go of all the past hurts and wrong-doing, there is the offer and promise of beginning again. It is a picture that is very much part of the church’s baptism service remembering Jesus’ baptism as he was immersed in water and rising up out of it (being dead to sin and rising to new life).

At Messy Muddy Church we also talked about God’s promise to give us a new heart and put a new spirit in us; removing from us our hearts of stone and giving us a soft heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). The children suggested that having hard hearts meant we might be mean, or selfish, unkind or just not care about people, but soft hearts meant that we would be kind and generous, that how people felt mattered and that we wouldn’t want to intentionally hurt people.

I wonder what new shoots you might be seeing in our community; in nature but also as we try to start anew following the various setbacks that we have all experienced as a result of the covid pandemic. New shoots, new opportunities, looking at things afresh is part of every day life, if we want it to be.

New experiences of God’s love can come in a variety of ways, often through people with soft and loving hearts who choose to make a difference to the lives of others.

However, tender new shoots need nurture and encouragement to grow and mature. This spring, let’s be aware of the new shoots growing in our gardens and the countryside around us, but also in our lives and the lives of others, new shoots budding in the organisations and groups in our community, and let’s try to encourage one another and see the beauty of it all as it develops.