Bishop of Doncaster

Looking forward to a new year...

Aristotle is supposed to have said “The more you know, the more you know you don't know.”  As we reflect on the past twelve months many will do so with joy, some with sadness and others with disappointment and regret.  At the beginning of 2016 none could have known what would impact on us personally, nationally or globally.  Few of us would have predicted ‘Brexit’ for example.  We may have anticipated the continuation of war and terrorism and done so with a great sadness in our hearts, praying that peace would one day engulf not only our own lives but the whole world and we continue to do so.  Many would not have predicted the events that have engulfed their own lives both the joyous ones and the less so.

As we look to a New Year none of us again know what lies ahead.  However good the previous year might have been we will start the new one in the hope and anticipation that it will better than the last.  I witnessed this during the New Year celebrations where people spoke hopefully about 2017 even sometimes in a negative sense “Whatever this year brings it can’t be worse than the last” I heard a number of people say.

At the start of a New Year many of us will reassess where life is taking us, determined to take a new direction, we’ll make New Year’s resolutions, most of which we won’t keep.  But in reality most of us have no idea what lies ahead and that can be unnerving, in part because we like to think we are masters of our own destiny. Life is uncertain and unpredictable and it’s difficult to know where to find hope, peace and fulfilment.

There is little we can do with the unpredictability of life but Christians believe that we needn’t be overcome by it.  Hope we believe lies in the Christ child who came to earth, who lived amongst us, and who died so that we might have our sins forgiven and find new life in him.  Some say that you can’t believe in God because you can’t know what you don’t know.  However, those who have come to believe in Christ have discovered a reality, a love that’s changed and transformed them.  It may not have made their problems go away but they see them in a new light and surrounded by the love and support of a community. 

In the Church’s year we are about to celebrate the Epiphany.  It’s the familiar story of the three wise men visiting the infant Jesus.  There is much about this story that we don’t in reality know but it sets us a number of lessons which we can take into the New Year.  The gifts we can offer may seem trivial and modest, but they represent the giving of ourselves to God which is the most important gift.  Secondly, like the wise men we’re on a journey both to discover Jesus and make him known to others.  Thirdly, the wise men through the grace of God came to faith in Jesus and so can we.

At the end of the story the wise men went home by another road.  We too this year can walk a different road, it may be uncertain, but it’s a road that if we stick with it can lead to Jesus which will lead to transformation and a new life in him.

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