Light in the darkness brings hope and peace for 2021
Celebrating Christmas seems especially significant this year. Christmas lights in windows and gardens have appeared early, as if people want to hasten its arrival.
We all need something to cheer us up and dispel the gloom of 2020. The arrival of a vaccine makes the symbolism of the birth of Jesus more meaningful than ever. Not many have received their first dose yet, and its full effect won't be seen for many months, but still, it's a light at the end of a long dark tunnel. A helpless and vulnerable baby in a stable may not seem much, but it is a sign of wonderful things to come.
Looking ahead today, the darkness has not disappeared. The New Year is filled with uncertainty as well as hope, and for some, profound anxiety. The economic impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt for years to come, bringing with it the threat of unemployment and debt.
It's not only the pandemic. Among the many threats facing humanity in the twenty-first century, climate change is likely to be the biggest. For our children and grandchildren, it will inevitably mean big changes.
Fifty years ago, the author Alvin Toffler published the book Future Shock. In it, he described the distress people suffer as a result of the rapid and social and technological change going on around them. If it was a reality in 1970, how much more it is today!
The prospect of losing control in the face of an unpredictable future is unsettling. The story of Joseph and Mary, two ordinary people trying bravely to cope with the difficulties life had thrown at them and their new-born baby, is a reassuring one. For many, it describes the coming of God to help humanity in its need. “A saviour is born”, the angels sang. For all of us it is a sign of hope.
The child in the manger reminds us that our anxieties are often overcome, and confidence restored, by events that appear small and insignificant.
Something profound was going on then, in spite of appearances. That can also be true of other apparently unremarkable events: the kindness of a stranger, loyalty of a friend, smile of a child, generosity of a neighbour, courage in danger. May the star of Bethlehem shine for us this Christmas, bringing hope and peace for New Year.