C.S. Lewis described a dystopian Narnia under the grip of the evil witch as being a land where “it was always winter, but never Christmas”: a bleak world of cold, where all the hope had been sucked out. Sometimes, January can feel like that. December’s darkness is mitigated by the expectation of Advent and Christmas festivities, but January has only punishingly short days, and endless weeks stretching ahead before spring. And with the news doubtless full of Brexit and the inauguration of President Trump, there can seem like little to be cheerful about.
So, what is the antidote to January’s gloom? It surely must still be Christmas: no, not the depressing number of shopping days until the next one, but the fact that the incarnation of the Son of God changed our world, not just for a day or a season, but for ever.
The Church’s liturgical calendar follows Christmas with Epiphany the Christian feast that celebrates the “shining forth” of God’s revelation to humanity. What happened in Bethlehem didn’t stay in Bethlehem, as the shepherds were told, this news was given “to you and to all mankind” and the song would resonate around the whole world. If Epiphany provides a liturgical excuse to light a candle in January’s darkness, it also serves as a reminder that God with us is indeed, and for the whole year.
What will 2017 bring? Well, we shall pray for peace in Syria and Yemen, for wisdom and less divisiveness in politics, for justice for the excluded, and a warmer welcome for Europe’s refugees. And as for the Church in 2017, where we will mark 500 years since Martin Luther set Europe ablaze with a rediscovery of the Gospel of Grace, let us pray that we will see this Good News of hope and joy in Jesus shine forth, that many may hear and believe, perhaps for the first time.
And may God fill your year with his light,