January Magazine leader

From the Vicar - January 2015

A New Year brings with it new hopes, either for exciting things expected, or that bad times might give way to something better. As we have moved to a fixed term Parliament, it is known that the next General Election will be on Thursday 7th May. So this New Year brings with it a heightened mood of promise and counter-promise over what might be the right road for our nation to travel towards better times. There is an unanswerable challenge that we have been living beyond our means and therefore we must be more frugal in the way we do things as a nation. The political parties argue over how this situation can best be addressed and we, in turn, need to listen and cast our vote accordingly. Yet there are consequences to the austerity of the present times, consequences which do not necessarily dictate the political decisions that have to be made, but consequences which need to be noticed. An all-party report into food poverty, chaired by Bishop Tim Thornton and Frank Field MP, has pointed out the paradox that here, in our country, which is the sixth richest nation in the world, it is astounding just how many people are now dependant on food banks to survive. The Archbishop of Canterbury has recently described the horror of hunger in African, but said that when he returned to the UK he was more shocked by what he found when he visited some church-led food banks. The Church is doing a fantastic job in leading the way with food banks, but we need also to ask our politicians why so many in our society are going hungry, when so much food is wasted. In making the political decisions we must make, when we vote in May, we need also to challenge our society to face up to the consequences of the present austerity measures. They inevitably mean that the poorest will dip even more below the poverty lines, as can be seen in the sharp rise in rent-arrears, evictions and suicides.

For us as Christians, the New Year begins with the celebration of the Feast of Epiphany, or the coming of the wise men. We are not told that there were three of them, nor what their names might have been, but they brought three gifts, so by tradition we say there were three of them. They do not belong in the Christmas story, but have their own day, which is 6th January, although we will celebrate this on Sunday 4th January. Here we find exotic and powerful men kneeling in homage to a small and vulnerable child. The world is turned upside down. Here, in this child, is revealed the King of Creation. All perspectives are changed. A new order has begun. Celebrating the birth of Christ, and the subsequent visit of the Magi, leads us to rejoice at the gift of the Christ-child. Yet to enthrone him as our Lord is to set ourselves within the perspective of his kingdom. The spirituality of the moment needs to be lived out in transformed living. Seeing the world differently now, as if through the eyes of Christ, must find expression in the world of politics. As we present the Christ child with the gift of our own lives, we find ourselves drawn into the story of God’s saving grace and therefore co-workers with Christ in bringing in a new world order. There can be no easy answers to the injustices of this world, but at least we can seek to live out a vocation to bring hope and healing where there is despair and brokenness. In the compassion with which we reach out to the hungry of our world, we witness to the fact that in Christ there is both hope and the possibility of a new beginning. We become the expression of a kingdom which, even now in the present moment, is dawning on our world.

Nigel LLoyd


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