Saturday, 18 September 2021

Timeless comfort of ancient truths

HOW are you today? You may or may not be aware that you have got through the most miserable day of the year (Monday, January 15) and are heading, albeit a little slowly, towards the heady joy of spring.

It’s ironic, but not entirely unhelpful, that at a time of year we recognise life’s difficulties, the church is in full celebratory mode in the lovely season we call Epiphany, culminating in the beautifully titled (and very ancient) service of Candlemas, a word you can’t say without having a little smile!

The causes of the sadness at this time of year are pretty obvious and don’t need spelling out but, from a Christian perspective, it is quite tragic that the very thing we’re celebrating (the coming of Christ) has become the cause of so much deep sorrow, caricatured as the “post-Christmas blues” but, more realistically, the result often of material indulgence (food, drink, money, relationships) over the Christmas period.

Like the weather at this time of year, this feeling can get right inside you and is very hard to shift, especially when your football team is languishing dangerously close to relegation (like Southampton FC).

I’m not going to provide annoying platitudes that being a Christian makes you immune from unhappiness (it doesn’t) and my prayers for football currently seem to be going unanswered, but there are certainly broad themes in faith that help.

Many studies in “happiness” tell us that key things are altruism, community and having a sense of something beyond yourself.

I read a study once that attributed some of urban unhappiness to the fact that you simply can’t see the stars.

It’s not to say that professional help shouldn’t always be sought when things seem unshiftable, but having a broad sense of a life “beyond ourselves”, for example, doing good to one another, coming together, singing together or reflecting on the big questions (in prayer or meditation), is a powerful way to live and you should find all these things in your church.

You might be surprised to consider your old church a place of contemporary happiness but we are purveyors of some very ancient truths that really have stood the test of time. 

My sense is that more and more people are becoming disillusioned with the (cultural) life they’ve inherited. From the success of the Great British Bake Off and the rise of community shops to the growth of sober movements like dry January, people are re-addressing the fast pace of the internet generation and looking for alternatives.

I’d like to suggest that your local church might be added to the mix and offers a great deal more than you might have thought, although heaven forbid we become “hipster” — that really would be the end!

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