New Year, new start?

The crowds had gathered on the Millennium Bridge outside the Deanery; we had had a good dinner and had watched ‘The Glass Onion’, now we were ready for the bongs from Big Ben and the subsequent fireworks. You can’t actually see them from where we are on the River Thames. The bends in the river, so familiar to people nowadays from the opening titles for ‘Eastenders’, mean that the London Eye and Big Ben are almost at 90 degrees from where the house is. But if the wind is in the right direction you can hear a distant boom and loud cheers. We opened the windows to catch the sound and watched the fireworks on the tele – the best of both worlds maybe.

The clock struck twelve and 2022 faded into the distance and 2023 began and I realised in that moment that this was to be, for me, a momentous, turning point year. Advent and Christmas had absorbed all my attention and I hadn’t really realised that I had six months left at Southwark Cathedral, and in this role, and in this house. In that split second of seeing out the old and bringing in the new it all became apparent to me.

New Year is always a bit odd. It is as though we imagine that what was happening is in the past and we begin anew, afresh. If only that could be true and particularly at the moment. I had said this in my Christmas Day sermon in the Cathedral

We leave this year knowing that there’s a great deal of unfinished business that will inevitably carry over into next year. The war in Ukraine is still going on; prices are rising and will rise; strikes and pay demands are unresolved; refugees continue to arrive because there’s no safe and legal way for them to get here; people will continue to starve as crops fail and water holes dry up because we cannot really commit to what is required to combat climate change; the rich will still get richer and the poor will still get poorer. But as I constantly say, and I really believe it, is that into all of this God enters and reality and mystery meet.

There is a lot of unfinished business, we begin this year with a full in-tray and already other things have come along that are grabbing our attention and challenging some of the elements of our life, not least Prince Harry and his series of revelations and allegations that are being drip-fed into our news and consciousness at the moment. Added to that there have been a whole series of deaths within our community, the loss of people, much loved and significant, without whom this new year will be the poorer. And, of course, the crisis in the NHS appears to be getting worse by the day and I feel as if I look helplessly on as it seems that a much loved part of our national life is collapsing with severe implications for each person and every household in the nation.

The Deanery hall at Christmas

On Twelfth Night we took the trees down for the last time in the Deanery and carefully packed them away, with the lights and the baubles, wondering what we will do with them. The hall looked stark after the beauty of the tree had been packed away, beauty that we had lived with for a full month.

And back to normal

Thank God, therefore that Epiphany happens at this time of the year. Without all of the glitz and frippery of Christmas itself, the epiphany events speak of divine revelation and divine gift in a powerful way. From revelatory gifts, to the divine voice of affirmation and the first miracle of the kingdom pointing to the overwhelming generosity of God, this season of manifestation gives us hope. In gold, frankincense and myrrh, in baptismal waters and miraculous wine, we begin to understand the nature of the God who is ‘one with us’. And as St John says in his Prologue which echoes through this period

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’ John 1.5.

I’m looking forward to these next six months and seeing all the ways in which our living, loving God speaks into and transforms all that we currently face. One of the collects in Common Worship for this season speaks so powerfully to me and I will be praying it regularly as a New Year resolution I can keep!

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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