Monday 2 January 2012

Happy New Year!

It's important to be happy. Not just for our own wellbeing, but for others'. A line from an Advent Bible reading comes to mind: "Keep your light shining brightly as the darkness covers the earth." For many, the global economy brings gloom, as economists predict further recession, and even those drivers of global economic boom, the Chinese, find their own economy faltering. It seems likely that the euro will fail, and that the leaders of the EU, with their focus on closer integration, in defiance of their people, who value the sovereignty and cultural difference of their own countries, have no idea how to prevent this from happening, or how to deal with it if (or when) it happens. There seems to be a long shadow cast by the credit crunch, and the financial folly that led to it, and that shadow is creeping gradually across the world, blotting out the sun of prosperity. And in other places, the shadow of tyranny brings another and perhaps worse kind of gloom, to places like North Korea, Iran and Syria, where opposition is crushed and freedom repressed. The Arab Spring may yet bring more tyranny not less, if elections such as those in Egypt throw up Islamist rule on the Iranian model. Indeed, there is much gloom, and if we focus on the gloom, much to fear.

But the reading I started with goes on: "For the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." At Christmas we get a chance to remember who the great light is, and why the light we draw from Him, reflecting His light, can shine brightly in the darkness. A friend wrote to me about her trip to Burma/Myanmar, where she saw Christian faith burning brightly in adverse circumstances. And in spite of the most dreadful persecution, it is still alive in North Korea and in China. This light comes from within, and poverty cannot touch it. Indeed, the church seems to grow more strongly in conditions of material poverty. For spiritual health, Bust seems better than Boom. So let us in the West not worry too much about the economic outlook, grim though it is for many. For the Light of the World also said: "Don't worry what you are going to eat, or what you will wear; your Father knows you need these things." I think we can trust Him. And as Amnesty International's emblem reminds us, it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. And the great Christmas gospel from John 1 tells us that "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out."

I wish you all a truly Happy New Year.