As we stand on the threshold of another New Year our minds naturally turn to what the future might hold. There is something about the beginning of January that leads to an almost romanticised vision of the year ahead. It’s a chance, for some, to wipe the slate clean and start again, letting bygones be bygones. New Year’s resolutions give others the encouragement and incentive to embark upon something new, perhaps a challenge of some kind, however mundane or exciting this might be. ‘New Year – New You’ is a slogan that is sometimes bandied about.
But the reality of course is that the novelty soon wears off. Apparently over 80% of New Year’s resolutions will fail by the beginning of February, suggesting that not many days of the year pass before the cold hard reality of January kicks in – and January can be a cold and hard month for many. The festivities of Christmas and the fireworks of New Year’s Eve are quickly forgotten, and life goes on.
It is perhaps unsurprising that the same thing happens in the church. After the long build up of Advent and the joyful celebrations of Christmas things tend to go a little flat. I find there is a temptation to want to hold onto Christmas for as long as possible whilst all the time the New Year is dragging us kicking and screaming into the future.
But let us not allow this to happen too quickly or forget that the light which we welcomed at Christmas is not extinguished – ever!
Whilst it is traditional for us to put away our Christmas decorations before 12th Night I think there is something to be said for keeping the Christmas Candle burning throughout January. This serves as a reminder that the light of Christ continues to shine in the darkness. In some Christian traditions this would be the case until Candlemas which takes place on the 2nd February, forty days after Christmas. Decorations would be kept up until then and Christmas extended well into the New Year.
I have no doubt that 2018 will bring its challenges – just like every year does. There will be things to look forward to and memories to be made, there will also be events that will test our faith and cause us to ask searching questions. Life will go on – but if Christmas means anything beyond the turkey and tinsel it reminds us that God is not distant to our lives or the life of the world but that God in Jesus was born among us to be our saviour. Christmas celebrates the mystery of the incarnation which tells us that God is with us, not just for a few days or even for a season, but throughout our lives.
So let us look forward to the year ahead, taking the light of Christ with us to lead us and guide us. And may the joy of Christmas be kept alive in your hearts and the presence of God be known among you whatever the New Year brings.