All over the country January is pantomime season and the evil Abenazar will be crying his seductive offer, ‘New lamps for old’. And (as we all fear) stupid Aladdin will assume that ‘new’ is always better than ‘old’ and hand over his lamp, and with it its magical powers.
It’s a wonderful annual reminder of the seductive allure of the new. New car, new kitchen, new shoes in the sale, a new job or a new friend; we can’t wait to tell someone about it.
And of course there is something alluring about new things. For a start, they usually work better, look better, shine with their very newness. Perhaps, that’s why at the New Year people celebrate, jump into fountains, get drunk and sing ‘auld lang syne’. Surely new is always better – and especially when we didn’t like the old one very much?
There’s a touching naivety about it all, as though we didn’t already know that new things quite rapidly become old and sometimes (like New Year) prove a terrible disappointment. Old shoes are generally more comfortable than new ones. Old friends are often the ones who offer lasting love and support. The Allure of the New can lead us down some frustrating paths.
At this point you may assume that I’m going to say that it serves us right, because the Christian faith, for instance, which is undeniably old is surely a far better guide to life than any of its brand new, modern alternatives. Go to church, and find out what ‘old’really means! Turn the clock back. Put on your best outfit and make your way through those great wooden doors.
In fact, that’s more or less the opposite of what I wanted to say, because right at the heart of the Christian message are the last words of God himself in the Bible: ‘See, I am making everything new!’ The ‘old’ was suffering, pain, evil, tears and death. The ‘new’ was their abolition: ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ (Rev 21) Given that choice, who would settle for the ‘old’?
The truth is that clothes and kitchens and cars get old, but God doesn’t, no matter how old-fashioned the Church may sometimes seem. His real name is ‘Yahweh’ (we used to call it ‘Jehovah’), which means ‘I am’. God is present tense, always and for ever. You can’t be more up to date than that.
So may this New Year bring peace, health and happiness, but also the challenge to proclaim our faith anew to the people of Houghton. So that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are present in 2018!
With all good wish for a Happy New Year