Hopes and Fears
At midnight the year ends, December 31st turns into January 1st and a new year, 2023 dawns. January is named after Janus, the Roman God of beginnings and endings. He is depicted as having two faces. One looking backwards, the other forward and that is the story of New Year’s Eve. We are looking back over the last three years which have seen the world change. The global pandemic, (which has not been eradicated) has forever changed our world and we live with the present realities of a global recession, a war in Ukraine that threatens to escalate into conflict between the world’s superpowers and the equally terrifying prospect of nuclear weapons being deployed. We see western democracies collapsing as lies, false promises and deceitful propaganda have led to an erosion of trust, which eats away at the very foundations required for democracy to work for the common good. Corruption is rife, truth telling seems a thing of the past, morality in the marketplace and in the public arena appears redundant. Racism, sexism, nationalism, assertion of rights and the dereliction of duty, care and compassion for the stranger, the weak and vulnerable are now sadly, notable characteristics of society. The world is burning up, the seas are polluted and the environment is littered by the detritus of a consumer society that shows little respect or care for the sacred earth upon which we are privileged to live. The church consumes so much of its time on issues of survival and internal conflicts and divisions are sadly rife, as are the drawing of red lines. There’s a lamentable failure in large measure to seize the opportunity of these changing times and to be people of peace, carriers of light, bearers of hope and purveyors of good news. It’s pretty depressing.
As the online customer support member said as we concluded our conversation and bade one another a happy new year; “Well, we’ve just got to hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. I reflected on those words following our conversation and a reminder of the fragility and vulnerability of human life. I thought of the millions of people for whom the future holds more fears than hopes and for whom uncertainty is not the call to adventure but a cause of deep anxiety.
I found myself singing the familiar Christmas Carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, with the line The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight. Hopes and fears are common to all humanity. Each passing year possesses alternating degrees of one or the other or both. I find myself on this New Year’s Eve holding both hope and fear in my heart and mind as we enter 2023. I’m reminded of that repeated phrase in the Scriptures, “Do not be afraid”. There is the apostle Paul’s exhortation;“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope”. He uses those words not as empty religious sentiment or some pious platitude but with a conviction that isn’t just “I hope so” but “I know so”. Here was someone who suffered, whose life didn’t exactly go to plan, but who had confidence in God in all circumstances, someone who had an understanding of trusting in God through the uncertainties and changing experiences of life. Not someone who avoided life’s realties in a religious confining cul-de-sac but as a person of faith who’d come to know that God is with us in all things.
I return often to some words of Corrie Ten Boom. I can see them now, in my mind’s eye, on a poster that Trevor, my dear friend and a former abbot of our Northumbria Community, displayed on the wall of his prayer cell. Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
So as we bid farewell to 2022 and enter a new year we do so with some fear, because we are human but also with hope. Hope grounded in the conviction that God loves us and the world to which he sent his Son to be its Redeemer and to break the chains of all that triggers fear and prevents us from seeing the Kingdom of God coming here on earth. Hope, born of faith, a trust in God that reminds us that every fear begins to evaporate with the arrival of hope. Every abolition movement begins with a vision of setting people free. Every evil tyrant is eventually brought down by the rebellion of love that conquers hatred. It is with these thoughts that I view the prospect of a new year with a fresh resolve to play my part in working for the common good. I will endeavour to live, refusing to be ruled by fear and instead, to live inspired by hope.
OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW
As with New Year, it’s out with the old and in with the new. This is the last of my blogs on this website. It’s been a privilege to have offered reflections over several years and to have built friendships with people within and beyond the Northumbria Community through my writing. This website concludes but a new one is coming into being. Together with two great friends and associates, Kate Pozzo and Craig Millward, we are launching our Northumbrian Collective initiative this coming Wednesday, 4th January 2023. The initiative seeks to encourage people to listen well, think deeply and live authentically. Do join us: www.northumbrian.org
Thank you for your company over many years with this blog. I conclude by sharing with you the endnote from my recent Christmas newsletter:
I have a dream this evening that one day we will recognise the words of Jefferson that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill shall be made low; the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. With this faith I will go out and carve a tunnel of hope through the mountain of despair. With this faith, I will go out with you and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Martin Luther King, 1963
God grant that we will, alone and together, work to carve out tunnels of hope and help to transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. As the letter to Philippines encourages us, “ Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving message into the night” Philippians 2:15
Bless you and take care