Happy New Year

Dear all,

Happy New Year! I trust your Christmas celebrations went to plan? As I write this, Christmas has not yet happened and so I am very much trusting that our Christmas services will go well, as planned, and indeed our own family Christmas celebrations. Unexpected things do happen though don’t they and often around Christmas time. It is a very special season, tinged with nostalgia, when everything seems heightened in our hearts and minds as we try to live up to this season of goodwill and bonhomie to all! Not always easy. For some the period between Christmas and New Year will come as a welcome relief from the business of everyday life yet for others it can take on a rather gloomy aspect as the year draws to a close. I don’t know whether it is that the days are short and there is more darkness with the weather generally colder as winter beds itself in. I wonder if it would be different if we lived the other side of the world and it was summer?!
As we hear the Christmas story once again we are aware that although the birth of Jesus was the most wonderful sign of God’s immersion into our rather messy world, there was a dark side to the story. The dark was not from God or of God, but instead came from those who let fear and pride rule their hearts, so much so that they commit violent acts. As we welcome the magi from the east in this season of Epiphany, they unwittingly alert Herod to the birth of this special baby who takes his own terrible action to prevent any toddler from usurping his own divine rule in the land. These far travelled magi are understood to represent the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles – in other words that the birth of Jesus was to be God’s gift for all peoples, not just the people of Israel. The magi have been following a sign for a long time and it has led them to Jerusalem. However then they have to find the exact location. It is through ancient prophecy that they discover it is Bethlehem and so they travel on to find the child who will be the saviour of the world.
Yet darkness will never have the final word. Unfortunately in this fallen world we have to live amongst the darkness, just as in one of Jesus’ parables about the nature of evil, the weeds grow with the good wheat, until the time of harvest when the good crop and the weeds will be separated. One of the scripture texts which have to be read at Christmas is that of the opening chapter of John’s gospel which states that the light came into the world yet the darkness could not overcome it. This month at church we very much explore this theme culminating in the celebration of Candlemas where Jesus is presented at the temple in Jerusalem as a baby. There he is recognised by old Simeon and Anna, two very faithful servants of God, as the Messiah, the light of the world. We celebrate this event with our annual Christingle service at the beginning of next month, February. It is a lovely service especially when we light the candles on our Christingle oranges and wonder as the lights shine in the dark.
So, if you are suffering from a bout of Christmas or post-Christmas blues, remember the reason Jesus was born, that he came and brought God’s light into the world; into our lives and that any darkness will always ultimately be dispelled by that wonderful light. Winter may seem long and dark but it also has its own beauty and special colours. Treasure those times and moments of light as we look forward to a new year. Incidentally if you open your door or window at midnight on New Year’s Eve you will hear our bell ringers ringing in the new year – ringing out the old and ringing in the new. If you feel stuck and like the magi don’t quite know where to find the Christ child, why not speak to me or come and join our study group this January as we begin to read John’s gospel and study the signs together?
With my love and prayers for you all
Revd Liz