So there goes 2020 and most of us are probably breathing a deep sigh of relief. This time last year we had barely heard of Covid-19, and Pauline would have thought that being forbidden by the government to stay overnight with her mum in Wales was the stuff of bad fiction. But now these things are an ordinary part of everyday life, along with face masks and track and trace, and quite honestly, we have had enough of them. So bring on 2021 and let the good times roll again.
Alas, no… because in spite of the famous midnight chimes of Big Ben, and the fireworks which usually accompany them (noticeably absent this year) it turns out that January 1st looks pretty much like December 31st. We are still in Tier 4 and our New Year’s Day get-togethers were just as curtailed as those at Christmas – in other words they didn’t happen. No browsing at the sales either! Instead we still have short days and cold weather, rain and cloud and the sneaking suspicion that we might have eaten too many mince pies and not enough vegetables. But hang on – we feel like that every year, regardless of Covid. Winter is frequently dreary, the weighing scales are often unkind after Christmas and the sales are never good for our wallets, so why do we always feel as if the change of year is going to make things better?
Perhaps it’s something to do with the eternal optimism which says that we have learned from our mistakes. We can forget about the ways we messed up during the year we are leaving behind, as a brand new year must surely signal brand new opportunities, which we will recognise and use to our advantage. We will naturally find it easy to cut down on chocolate because it does us little good, and we will stick to a new diet and exercise regime because a new year will bring with it a new resolve to do what is right. We will find a better job, curtail unnecessary spending so that, with Del-Boy and Rodney, ‘this time next year we will be millionaires’! Is it any wonder that most New Year resolutions don’t make it past January? Our desire to do better might be sincere but our will power so often fails us, especially when the Christmas chocolates are begging to be eaten. Why, then, should 2021 be any different, even once we have a vaccine and the masks are gathering dust? We will still be the same people at heart, and although we might have learned lessons which only Covid could teach us, we will still face the struggles we endured before the first case ever emerged.
Thankfully as Christians we can have a different perspective. It is not a different date which makes things new and better, but a change of heart, and our God is in the business of re-forming us as new creations. He has promised to remove the stain of sin, regardless of its previous hold on us, through the love and sacrifice of His Son. The apostle Paul wrote that ‘…if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here’; and that ‘…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’, so the trials of 2020 can take their place in the past without breaking us in the present. The even better news is that this is true of any and every year, because this gift of God is eternal and ever-present. All we have to do is accept it, and allow Him to make us the people He always intended us to be, secure in the knowledge that with His help, love and grace, that is a new start we can truly expect to bring us into new and better things.
With our love and prayers for a very happy New Year, with Jesus at its heart,
Matthew and Pauline