To all my many friends, a hope-filled new year to you and your kin.
After eventually moving into our new home just before Christmas and enjoying a wonderful time of gathering the family to be together to share in the festivities, spending some quality, unrushed time together, relaxing and exploring our new but not unfamiliar surroundings.
I do however find Christmas such a paradoxical time. The Advent story echoes deep in the consciousness with its themes of light and darkness, despair and hope, birth and death, good and evil.
For us, the joy of celebrating Christmas with our sixth grandchild. The love, security, comfort and care with which she is wrapped contrasted with the millions of mothers around the world for whom there are no such things other than love to offer their children. For the babies for whom there is no breast to succour their empty stomachs and pain-filled cries. For us, the day playing in the snow and making a snowman brought lots of fun and laughter. The walk up the hill to deeper snow a pathway laden with pleasure, the only threats to us coming from an unsuspected snowball. A stark contrast to the millions of refugees for whom a journey escaping their homelands where war, genocide, famine and suffering holds so many dangers and fears. Where bullets and bombs threaten their very existence. Where their fears and hopes are often met with indifference and hatred. Where the longing for hope and help is met with hostility. Where their cry for help provides us with opportunities but are viewed instead as troubles we could do without, or feel no responsibility for. Where our indifference, busyness or accepted attitudes and policies would sooner reject and ignore the cry of the world’s poor and suffering.
As I look back on 2017 it was a paradoxical year and contemplating this new year, 2018, I do so with a mixture of some hopes and several fears.
After another lovely day with the family, as our time together draws to its conclusion and they will soon return to their own homes, we toast in the new year a little before midnight and I find myself listening in reflective mood to Radio 4’s Something Understood as the clock approached midnight. I am delighted to listen Rowan Williams exploring the theme of Storms and Stillnesses. What a gift Rowan is and he put so perfectly what my heart and head were feeling and thinking:
Can we in a year that is about to begin hope to discover that balance of that deep stillness and trust in the centre of things and a ready willingness to act and support and build the confidence of our human neighbours? Storms literal and metaphorical are not likely to stop anytime soon and we aren’t likely to find any magic formula to make this world safer. But it is a start to make it saner, refusing the feverous pace of reactive emotions and the lies that tell us we can be secure at each others expense, without ever noticing the other. Challenge the lies, build the connections, walk forward trustfully with eyes and ears open , listen for the heartbeat… Unless we remember how much of a lie it is that we can make ourselves completely safe, we shall train ourselves not to notice how the majority in our world continue to live.
He tells us that at the heart of our experience of storms is a religious revelation that there is no guarantee of safety but a promise that we shall be held through it all and not defeated.
According to Dr Williams, “When we show ourselves ready to stand alongside those who face the worst upheavals, trials and pains, we reflect just a little of the steady presence at the root of everything that never disappears, the pulse that continues to beat even when we can hardly discern it – the presence we call God.”
Thank you Rowan. And thank you Lord for giving us hope to embrace the challenges and opportunities of this new year.
I pray this same God-given hope will be yours; my family, companions, friends and readers of this blog or post.
I turn soon to sleep with the words of Day 31’s Meditation, from our Northumbria Commmunity’s Celtic Daily Prayer in my mind:
We have to be candles,
hope and despair,
faith and doubt,
life and death,
all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place
where people must always find us.
And if our life means anything,
if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and
does some good,
it is that somehow,
by being here,
we help the world cope
with what it cannot understand.