The turning of the New Year is often a time for reflection and reminiscence. In any ordinary year there will be a lot to consider and reflect on. However, 2016 has, by any measure, been extraordinary. Many important 20th century popular culture icons have gone to join the Great Majority, including David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Victoria Wood and Alan Rickman. More significantly, the implications of the Brexit Referendum vote in June will be felt not only in the UK, but around the world for decades to come. And, then, we have President…well, resident Trump.
I know there will be a range of views about all these things. Many people will say, ‘Who cares about the death of someone like David
Bowie?’ However, the sense that many 20th century icons have died suddenly is an indication that we’re truly into the 21st century now. The 20th Century that formed so many of us over the age of forty is history now.
Equally, some people will say, the UK leaving the EU is long overdue. Personally, I am still in shock. It feels like a catastrophe in
the making. I’ve grown up in the EU and I am a proud Brit and a proud European. I think for many people younger than me it just seems unbelievable that the European dream is over. And, then, we come back to President Trump. Frankly, his appointment strikes me
as one of the most worrying international developments of the past fifty years.
So, 2016! On a global scale, I suspect it may go down as one of the significant moments in the story of the 21st century. It may signal
the point at which the 21st century ‘came of age’. However, as our thoughts turn to a New Year I still believe we do so in confidence. Why? Because, in faith, we say, ‘Jesus Christ yesterday, today and tomorrow.’ And we don’t do so in some stupid, complacent way. That is, we don’t just say, ‘Nothing can trouble us because we’re special.’ Rather, because we seek to follow in Christ’s Way, we trust that – in the midst of life’s challenges – ultimately God’s Story is definitive.
God’s invitation to live on his promises is incredibly challenging. I am reminded of the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a Lutheran
Pastor during the Second World War. He was arrested for resisting Hitler and, after over a year in prison, was put to death. In the face of incredible challenge, he continued to live and work for the Gospel and he didn’t give into despair. The world was crumbling
around him and he kept faith, because God keeps faith.
While in prison, he wrote the following poem:
All men go to God in their distress,
seek help and pray for bread and happiness,
deliverance from pain, guilt and death,
All men do, Christians and others.
All men go to God in His distress
find Him poor, reviled, without shelter or bread,
watch Him tormented by sin, weakness and death.
Christians stand by God in His hour of grieving.
God goes to all men in their distress,
satisfies body and soul with His bread,
dies, crucified for all, Christians and others,
and both alike forgiving.
Of course, it’s a translation and as such it loses much of its power and subtlety. But it’s still possible to discern an extraordinary theological claim: That God meets us in our need, no matter who we are. Not because we’re Christian or good or special or blessed. No. He meets us and offers himself body and soul and forgives us. Why? Because that is God’s very nature. Because God is the Love Supreme.
God’s wondrous nature remains no grounds for complacency. In being invited to Follow The Way we do so in acknowledgement that we’re Christ’s Body on earth. And how we go about that way of being matters. We can choose to sit on our hands, we can bury our heads in the sand. Or we can show courage and faith and love. We can live as Christ lived. It may be costly, but it is also the way to abundant life.
May you have a Happy New Year!