Saturday, 31 December 2016

Turn of the Year

As the sun sets on 2016 there's an excuse to become a little philosophical about what's going on in the world. I can't remember feeling less optimistic and more uncertain about the year ahead. The prospect of the Trump presidency worries me, the muddle over Brexit frustrates me, the situation in the Middle East saddens me, the continuing terrorist threats disquiet me, and here at home the railway disputes depress me. But as a preacher I'm supposed to proclaim Good News. So where is it?

Mrs Alexander, the 19th century vicar's wife, wrote many children's hymns which are often dismissed as sentimental and old-fashioned, but many of them were written to help children understand basic Christian doctrine. One of the most immortal lines is 'He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all.' In a simple and direct way that captures the mystery of the incarnation: God becoming man. And that is where I can find Good News.

It's good news that Jesus came and lived among us, sharing all our human emotions and experiences - even death itself. It's good news that Jesus was born in poverty, was threatened with extermination by a cruel king, and ended up as a refugee all before the age of two. It's good news that Jesus suffered, that he was tempted - in fact that he was made perfect through suffering. It's good news that he has taken those experiences back to heaven with him where, one of the biblical writers tells us, he lives to intercede for us. Knowing what it's like to live our life, he can bring our case before our Father God.

So even if the world continues to be dark and troublesome, and many people suffer, and we may suffer too - God is among us, he is with us in trouble and joy, in peace and in pain. Good News for 2017.