If you or I had the position and influence to issue a ‘New Year Message’ to a watching public, what would we say?
The theme of the Queen’s Christmas message this year was ‘hope in moments of darkness’, while the Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year message encourages us to continue to look outwards as a nation and use our best resources to change the world in which we live.
Sound advice, good messages of course, but what would you or I say?
At another level, it’s probably fair to assume that few who have spent any time contemplating the coming year are so content with their lot that they don’t yearn for change or improvement.
Some are sick, some are suffering the effects of relationship breakdown or bereavement, or have lost their job or business and are struggling financially, and still others live chaotic lives; anxious of the challenges of the future or fearful that bad choices they made in the past will return to haunt them.
As a man, Jesus was aware of the human condition and spoke words that have huge potential to bring comfort, although the power of what he said is dulled by the chapter divisions in John’s gospel. I’ll explain. In chapter 13 he is speaking with his motley crew of followers as he predicted his death.
‘I will be with you only a little longer,’ Jesus said. ‘You will search for me but you can’t come where I am going,’ and he added, ‘Love each other, for it’s your love for one another that will prove to the world that you are my disciples.’
Peter asked where he was going, and Jesus answered:‘You can’t come with me now, but you will follow me later.’
‘But why can’t I come now, Lord?’ he asked. ‘I’m ready to die for you.’
‘Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter – before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will have denied three times that you even know me.’
The chapter ends on that poignant note, and perhaps it shouldn’t, for Jesus’ next statement is all Peter and we need to hear.
Now bear in mind that Jesus has just predicted that Peter will lie, and utter oaths, and claim: ‘Jesus? Never heard of him!’ and yet Jesus’ next words as chapter 14 opens are: ‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled.’
Now, I need to hear that every day of 2016 and beyond; no matter what I do or say, however I might disappoint myself or those around me, there is no place in my relationship with my Father for me to feel guilty, or dirty, or ashamed.
Richard Rohr in his book, The Naked Now encourages us to see ourselves as our Father sees us; there’s no condemnation, we’re guiltless and unconditionally loved. We can stand before him, as naked before a mirror, the trouble however with most of us is that we stand in a hall of mirrors.
We are influenced by what our neighbours might think, our spouse, our work colleagues, every Tom, Dick and Harry will make us feel insecure, fearful and inadequate as we take up our place in life, our hall of mirrors.
My New Year message to me is this; all I could ever want or need from my Father; acceptance, love and total forgiveness I already have.
Have an amazing 2016.