Christmas is a time where we indulge in festive foods and celebratory meals. As a boy, I remember that Christmas cake was an important delicacy and treasure in our family’s seasonal traditions. At least 8 weeks before Christmas my mum would buy all the ingredients including a selection of dried fruits and nuts; stockpiled in readiness for the 2 days necessary to make the cake. On the first day, the fruit would be hand chopped–raisins, sultanas, dates, almonds, cherries, mixed peel–and added to that a liberal tablespoon (or two) of brandy or whiskey was stirred in.  The fruity mix was left to soak for 24 hours, while covered. The aromas of the fruit combined with the alcoholic spirit filled the air the following day as the dry mix, fruit and nuts were beaten in a large bowl prior to baking. As boys, we would scramble to lick the bowl first!

To this day, my olfactory senses can still recall the wonderful fragrance of a process called ripening. It is a Christmas heirloom of sorts for me.

For the full impact of flavour, ripening is a necessary process. To the eye, not much happens. There is little evidence of change, except perhaps for slight increase in the size of the dried fruit. But what ripening does is it both mellows and maturates, heightening the impact of the fruit
This year Fresh Hope published a 100-year horizon missional document. It is a long reach; to endeavour to project what might be necessary for our movement of Churches to be vitally engaged in mission and ministry into a future Australia. Lots of metaphors come to mind; perhaps the most compelling is this idea of ripening, where we see fruit come into maturation.

As outlined in the 100 Year Horizon document we believe our cornerstone strategies have the potential to bear enduring and mature fruit. And so this Christmas, we slow down and rest. We pray and discern. We offer faith and hope to a hurting world. We pursue wisdom and patience as we eagerly celebrate Christ’s birth.

Our most important prayer is: that Jesus will be glorified 100 years from now! Real transformation comes from the Word of God, fuelled by the Spirit of God and within the community of God.  May God slow you down during this festive season in order that you might have the opportunity to both ripen and mature in your relationship with Him.

Seasons peace and joy,

Dr Andrew Ball.