Happy anniversary!

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 13th December 2017''Preparations at Balmoral Park ahead of The Royal Ulster Winter Fair at the Eikon centre outside Lisburn.  The 32nd Winter Fair takes tomorrow, Wednesday 14th December.''''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 13th December 2017''Preparations at Balmoral Park ahead of The Royal Ulster Winter Fair at the Eikon centre outside Lisburn. The 32nd Winter Fair takes tomorrow, Wednesday 14th December.''''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

Cattle mooing. Sheep bleating. Farmers chattering. Tractors roaring - and hopefully no rain pouring - sure signs that Balmoral Show has opened-wide its welcoming gates once again.

It’s hard to believe that for 150 years now farmers have been getting together to show their livestock and enjoy each other’s company and craic.

We want to heartily congratulate the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) on this milestone moment: 150 years of Balmoral Show!

Happy anniversaries are to be celebrated. Families, separated by distance and age, gather together. Cakes are cut. There’s fun and laughter and time taken to remember the past.

In Jerusalem, another important anniversary was once drawing near: the Passover. A time to remember how, centuries earlier, God had freed His Israelite people from slavery in Egypt. Back then, each family was to sacrifice a lamb and smear the blood on the doorframes of their houses, so that God would see the markings and pass over the homes of His people. Spreading His protecting wings over them, He shielded them from His tenth and final plague on Egypt.

On one particular Passover, three men on a hill outside Jerusalem were struggling for breath, each hanging on a rough Roman cross. The man in the middle is God’s own and only Son, the Lord Jesus. Some may remember what was said about Jesus three years earlier, “ ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ ” (John 1:29). Jesus is the ultimate Passover Lamb, who protects His followers from God’s judgement and its dire consequences of eternal separation from Him and everything good.

Anniversaries are times when we look back and take stock. As we take honest stock of our lives, we realise that things aren’t right. As the verse above explains, we are sinners. We are sinners, first and foremost, because we have put ourselves into reverse gear and turned away from God.

As well as looking back, anniversaries are also times to look forward. What does the future hold? Despite our poor track record with God, the good news for us is that God is still providing His followers with the protection we need from His just judgement that leads to eternal separation from Him and everything good.

In one of the Bible’s greatest verses of triumph and hope, the apostle Paul points us to the deliverance that only turning to Jesus and trusting in Him will bring: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Perhaps you have looked back and recognised your sin, but also long to look forward to a fresh start with God, under His eternal protection. I was in that position almost 28 years ago, but what can you do about it now? If you want to act on what is becoming increasingly clear to you about God and about yourself, here is a prayer you can pray: “Father, I admit that I have turned away from You and gone my own way. But I thank You that Your Son Jesus died on the cross so that I can be forgiven. So please forgive me. Help me, from now on, to turn from living for myself and to faithfully follow Jesus as my King. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”

If you have prayed that prayer you should know that it is the most important thing you will ever do. It would also be a good idea to speak to someone you know who is a follower of Jesus, as they will help you as you begin your journey with Christ.

Whether you have just begun that journey, or have been journeying a while, whatever the reason to visit us, you will be more than welcome at the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s stand at Balmoral, as we join with the RUAS in celebrating their 150th anniversary of the Show.

Rev. Kenny Hanna is minister of Second Dromara Presbyterian Church and grew up on his family’s farm in the foothills of the Mountains of Mourne.

If you would like to talk to someone about this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at khanna@presbyterianireland.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland stand is EK 28, in the Eikon Exhibition Centre. Light refreshments, a seat to rest weary legs, as well as face painting for children, awaits you.