First of all, may I wish you all a very happy New Year. It has to be said that 2020 has been a challenging time for us all; I for one am ready to embrace 2021.
Each year we look forward with hope that the year will bring forth health, happiness and prosperity. Nonetheless, we know from experience that life is not as simple as this; the stark reality is that the forthcoming year will inevitably be a mixed bag of events. From a Christian viewpoint it is more realistic to hope that whatever the year may bring, we are able to meet it with faith. If we can be filled with hope instead of cynicism and despair, then we have a chance of being able to keep a sense of joy in our lives. Worldly happiness can quickly evaporate in times of misfortune, but joy is a characteristic that refuses to be beaten down, come what may.
The New Year is not a religious festival for Christians, but the way in which it coincides with Christmas makes this a time of new beginnings. When we read the scriptures, we recognise that with God there is always hope and that all things are possible.
This month we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. The story of the Magi reminds us of the nature of Jesus. He is the fulfilment of the Old Testament writings. In the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh we see how he is marked out as king, but not just any king, one for all believers, as the Son of God and the redeemer who sacrificed his life for our sake.
We know that the way ahead during the earthly life of Jesus would not be an easy one. It would end in the most harrowing defeat, as far as most people are able to see. Through all of this, the faith which Jesus embodied and the hope which came to life in his teachings, were not overcome by the shame and the violence of the cross. Only the Son of God could take a symbol of terror and transform it into a sign of life and hope.
Christian hope then, compels us to view the world differently. We are forced to see that transformation can take place even in the direst of circumstances. As we begin 2021, let us embrace whatever unfolds with the possibility that at some point we might even be able to physically embrace one another!
Happy New Year!