Let me begin by saying Happy New Year! This is often a time of year when people make New Year resolutions and I wonder if that’s the kind of thing you do?
There’s lots of advice on-line if you’re searching for how to make the year ahead a good one. One website I visited has a list of 30(!) suggestions for new year resolutions to help you live life fully. They range from starting a meditative practice to developing a business plan; they include improving your IQ, eating fewer calories, reading more books, learning a new skill a month and being kinder to yourself. Lots of laudable things on this list but I can’t help feeling that being kinder to yourself would be NOT starting the year with a list of 30 extra things to attempt (and likely fail) to do!
For Christians this time of year is Epiphany – a time to consider what Christmas and the Incarnation means: what God coming into the world for us means and to consider how we respond to that. An ‘epiphany’ can be an awakening or the discovery of the essential meaning of something: it’s like one of those moments when suddenly the light-bulb switches on for us and we understand. The season of Epiphany is a fitting time then for us to consider what difference Christmas actually makes to us!
God became flesh and lived among us – the central tenet of the Christian faith is this good news that God loves us so much he comes into the world for us as Christ. He comes into all the darkness and all the mess of the world, not into a shiny palace but into a dark stable, not as a king in a conventional sense but as a lowly baby in an ordinary family, in a very low-key part of the world. He comes into the world in love for all of us.
Knowing that we are loved by God, knowing that the child in the manger represents the nature of God’s love for each and every one of us is at the heart of the Christian story. It is at the heart of how we live out our lives as Christians and as Christ’s church: it inspires us, it motivates us, it enables us to share that love with others. If we catch a sense of that love; if we experience just a glimmer of that love; could that make a difference to our lives? Can that shape how we live out our lives, whatever the challenges that may face us in the year ahead?
My encouragement to us at the beginning of this New Year is that, whatever resolutions we might have made (and whether we’re successful in keeping them or not!) that we begin this year in the knowledge that we are loved deeply by the God who came into the world as Christ for us. As we journey through this year in that certainty I pray this can be a hope-filled, joy-filled and peace-filled year for our church, in our communities and in our nation.
With my prayers and very best wishes.