“And that of course is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the worlds seemingly most indifferent” Taylor Caldwell
It’s winter solstice, the day with the least daylight and the longest night. A day to reflect on this past year. As Winston Churchill once said, “Christmas is the season not only of rejoicing but of reflection”.
A time to look back with thanksgiving but also with sadness over many of the happenings that we witnessed throughout our nation and the world in 2019.
It’s the words of the prophet Jeremiah 6:14 that resonate with me more than most biblical passages as I think of this year. “They act as if my peoples’ wounds are only scratches. They say peace peace, all is well but there is no peace. All is not well”.
We live in an increasingly conflicted and divided nation and world. A world where nationalism, tribalism and racism, allied to poverty and injustice is fuelling conflicts. A world where the gap between rich and poor widens. A world dominated by a wealthy elite, the power of multinational corporations. For example, in Britain, more than a fifth of the population live on incomes below the poverty line and nearly one in three children live in poverty and the use of food banks is rising. The six-fold difference between the income of the top 20% of households and those of the bottom 20%. Nearly 50% of the UK’s wealth is owned by less than 10% of the population. According to the charity Shelter, at least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain and over 7,000 people will be rough sleeping tonight. 726 people dies on the streets of England last year, a rise of 22% on the previous year.
This year has seen the rise of demagogues and dictators, undermining and demolishing the liberal democratic systems of the western world as we know it.
The world is changing.
A scorched and polluted earth which is revealing before our very eyes, changes and a crisis that has not been seen before.
We live in a world where Human Rights are denied to millions, where believers of all faiths are persecuted, including nearly 250,000,000 Christians who suffer persecution for their belief. Let’s not say peace where there is no peace.
However loud people sing or deceive themselves with a fictitious fundamentalism or naive, head in the sand spirituality, defining reality, will tell us that we are living in turbulent and troubled days. It feels more like exile than any notion of revival, days not of light but what feels like the emergence of a new Dark age.
So where, if anywhere, is hope to be found? The Advent reading from the prophet Isaiah, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” speaks powerfully to our present darkness. Amidst the darkness, we celebrate the God who loved the world so much that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem, bring hope and transformation. Christ’s coming was and is “Good news for all people”. Darkness can be transformed by his light and enmity erased by his peace. That love, not hate, would rule and one day the ways of his kingdom would be fully realised and in the meantime is prayed and worked for.
As those who follow Christ, the light of the world, we must not despair but burn like candles, holding his light before us as we live through these dark days.
As we journey through this Christmas season and anticipate the dawn of a new decade, 2020, my prayer is an adaptation of one of the meditations in our Northumbria Community Celtic Daily Prayer. A prayer that I have adapted from Paul Field’s song, Go peaceful:
Lord help us to live peacefully in gentleness through the violence of these days. Help us to show tenderness in all our ways. Through darkness in troubled times we pray that the beauty of you, our God, may be upon us in all our ways; in our hearts, minds, words and actions. We pray that we may seek your wisdom and allow your faithfulness to burn like a flame. Help us to speak truthfully in the world of lies, fake news, propaganda and deceit. Help us to show kindness and to see everyone through heavens eyes.
This is my prayer for you and all those whom you love and care for.
I will not be back posting on social media until January 6th Epiphany, on that great Christian Feast day that celebrates God’s coming to us in Christ, the hope, peace and light of the world.
In his name, be blessed and take care.