Saturday, 23 January 2021
I THINK it is fair to say that many of us will not be sorry to see the back of 2020.
But with the arrival of a new year, it is probably also fair to say that if you pay any attention at all either to economic data or to covid-19 figures, it is quite difficult to summon up any great enthusiasm for 2021.
I take great comfort in being a part of a tradition that by God’s grace has survived greater horrors than these.
What encouragements can we find in the gospel as we approach the turn of the year?
January 1 is a significant Christian festival, not because it is the start of a new year, but because it marks two important events in the life of Jesus.
The first is the naming of Jesus. At eight days old, he is given a name that has a particular meaning. Jesus means “Yahweh saves”, Yahweh being the sacred Jewish name for God. It is a big name for an eight-day-old child and it points to his identity as saviour. In a unique way, Jesus is his name.
And so we should not overlook the power of apparently small and insignificant things. The redemption of all that is comes through an apparently insignificant baby born to a humble family in a down-at-heel town in an unhappy corner of the Roman Empire.
In difficult times we should never despair of doing any good, we should never think that our small actions are of little or no value.
The second is the circumcision of Jesus.
This may seem like a strange thing to commemorate and yet the extent of its significance is surprising.
It is the first time that Jesus’ blood is shed, a poignant reminder that this baby will grow into a man who will die on a cross.
This cross is at the heart of that salvation of which Jesus’ name speaks — the sacrifice of the cross brings healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. An eternity gazing into the infinite beauty of the love of God opens before us.
And so we need to learn afresh the power of sacrifice. In truth, many already have, especially those working in frontline jobs who have borne the brunt of the hardships of the past year.
But sacrifices are going to be asked of all of us, one way or another, and we must be ready for that.
Not only ready, but also willing, cheerful even, because when we follow the path of sacrifice and live for others, a creative force more powerful than any virus or economic downturn is unleashed, a force that by God’s grace could lead us away from jealousy and anger and blame and into generosity and love.
Happy New Year.
04 January 2021
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