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2018 New Year Message

by Gerry Lynch last modified 08 Jan, 2018 11:03 AM

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, gave the 2018 New Year Message broadcast on BBC Radio Wiltshire on 31 December 2017

Happy New Year.

Yes, we can predict some things about 2018. We can be pretty certain that Manchester City will win the Premier League and that our politicians are going to be preoccupied with Brexit. But I support Spurs and I voted to Remain so neither is going to fulfil my hopes. And it’s not what we can predict that is going to be the key to 2018. It is how we respond to ‘events’, the things we can’t predict, that matters; and that is going to depend on vision and character.

But the new year is a good time to look back and forward, to take stock and voice some hopes. Even if we don’t keep all of our new year’s resolutions it’s good to think about what we can do different and better.

All of us want to begin by being happier and healthier and we can’t do this on our own. We belong in a community, with others, family, neighbours, and a whole variety of groups. So, our new year’s resolutions will almost certainly start by wanting to be nicer to the people closest to us and spread out from there.

You don’t have to be a Christian to see that Jesus was a great moral teacher. Some of what he taught is universal wisdom. “Do to others as you would have them do to you”, even Confucius says the same.

Some of it is more distinctively Christian.

The summary of the Law in the Gospels is, ‘Love God and love your neighbour as yourself’. It has stood the test of time. Get yourself in proportion: with God, and with other people. But you won’t be able to do either if you don’t look after yourself. We need high expectations about ourselves as well as about each other. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. Act as if you believe that everyone else is as important as you are. And you are pretty important, wonderfully made, a child of God, made in God’s image. It’s a great way of bringing us all alive. I’m not just about me, I care as much about you. Indeed, I become a better bigger and am more alive as a person because of you.

Love is not a zero sum game which uses all our energy and exhausts us. Love creates energy and makes new possibilities. It knows how to give and receive. We are not here just to be consumers and gain us many things and experiences as we can buy. We are here as co-creators with God and one another and our to use our intelligence is to be used to make life better, to make an even better world. We are made for goodness.

So am I hopeful as we enter 2018? Yes, of course, and I don’t just mean I am optimistic. Hope is much more deeply rooted. It’s much more the sort of hope spoken by the survivors of Grenfell Tower after the memorial service at St Paul’s cathedral. They said that what they wanted is “truth and justice”. They didn’t think it especially complicated and said nothing about our living in a post-truth society with alternative facts. Their hope is that we will take the trouble to be a society that is about the truth. That is enduring and brings hope.

The prayer I often use as we enter the new year which was written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the dark years of Apartheid in South Africa.

Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.

Desmond Tutu (An African Prayer Book Hodder and Stoughton 1995)

So I believe we can have hope for the new year and I pray that God will bless you and all of us as we begin 2018 together. I hope we will all have a very happy new year.

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