By Haddon Wilmer
It is a cheerful convention to wish anyone a ‘happy new Year’. Perhaps a cloak hiding doubts and fears. A squib of optimism, doomed to be swallowed up in the darknesses which pursue us from the old year.
It is foolish to suppose that the wish can be taken as a firm promise or a certain prediction. Is it not wise to let it be merely a wistful kindness befitting a festive season when we take a vacation from reality?
How to save the wished-for ‘happy new Year’ from futility, from weary distrust of any promise of more than cosmetic change? (Cosmetic – eg, getting a new prime minister while keeping the same system and culture and values?)
If the greeting is empty, let us see it as a challenge to defiant reengagement in realistic concentration on essentials.
The wish is feeble because the world’s unreliability is made worse by our foolish, ambitious and anxious treatment of it.
But within the wish there may be a wise and humble prayer. It will be a confession of the sins of earlier years. We carry their burden forward, and are still under their threat of judgment. Just one example: Did Cop26, last year’s work, decisively break with our inveterate habit of wrecking our shared habitat? Who dares say ‘yes’? Is it not as urgent as ever for humanity together to start bringing forth climate-relevant, rather than pious, ‘works worthy of repentance’ (Luke 3. 7-9)?
Simutaneously, it will be a prayer of faith in God, which therefore stretches beyond our measure of what is possible, because it is drawn forward by the call of God which transcends all we can ask or think. But it will be our prayer, arising from the depths where we are, with feet on the ground God has given us to steward. It will be a prayer of glad vision, such as we read in Isaiah 35. And praying like this will ‘strengthen the weak hands…’ (to get on the work) and ‘the eyes of the blind will be opened….’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQaef32R2mU) and so there will be at last ‘everlasting joy’ in the city of God.
‘Therefore, prepare your minds for action’ – ‘gird up the loins of your mind’ (I Peter 1.13;I Cor 15.58)
Happy New Year!
By Haddon Willmer