Looking at the Christmas crib on this first day of 2022, I am struck by the choices, whether for good or ill, made by different participants in the events of the first Christmas. There is the ‘Yes’ of Mary and that of shepherds, none of whom knew what lay ahead. Then there was the ‘No’ of Joseph to customary practice; the ‘Yes’ of Herod to inner fear and a destructive desire for significance; and the ‘No’ of the Magi to Herod’s deceitful request. And at the heart of Christmas is God’s resounding ‘Yes’ of love to humanity and all of creation.
The place of choice in our lives seems particularly pertinent, not only on this first day of a new year but also on the day of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s funeral. His life and ministry and passion for justice was rooted in that love of God and the truth that every person is unique, precious and created in the image of God. Desmond Tutu lived courageous choices, and in his fight against apartheid he spoke up for the right of choice denied to so many. I will never forget being in South Africa in 1994 as people were taught how to mark ballot papers for the first time.
New Year is often a time for looking back, including reflection on the consequences of choices made, whether ours or those of other people. There are hopefully smiles as well as tears, and just as there might be gratitude for generosity, there might also be pain and sadness regarding choices denied us, not least in a time of viral pandemic. Yet, New Year is also a time of looking forward, and recognising the choices we do have as we look to the future.
As we walk into 2022, it seems that making plans remains precarious, and we are perhaps more aware than usual of so much not being of our choosing or in our control, yet every day we will have the power to make choices, small or large, which shape our lives and the lives of other people: The words we choose to say, or the people we choose to engage with, or how we use what we have, or how we value the earth; or the choices about how we participate, live and worship in our different local contexts. In all these choices we are impacting the present and shaping the future.
My prayer at the start of this New Year is that whatever our age or story, we might be reawakened to the significance of our choices, both small and large, as individuals, communities and as ‘the diocese’ together. May we begin 2022 saying ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to join in with the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven. And let us be thankful for God’s unwavering choice of love for us, revealed in the tiny Christ-child – God with us. May this alone be our starting place.
I wish you a peaceful and hope-filled New Year.
With my thanks and prayers as ever