Stanwick Group of Churches

February Letter

As I write to you the traditional trappings of Christmas have all been stored away and we have already welcomed in another year. The human need for a midwinter festival is longstanding and associated with the shortest day; it is a time to commemorate the old year and welcome the new. For us, for the best part of two millennia, it has had, at its centre, the birth of Jesus although throughout that time the festival has been a combination of the religious and the secular with these two elements intertwined in its rituals. There have been times when any form of celebration has been discouraged but these have been short lived because of the constant desire to bring light and colour to that part of the year.

The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus (the janitor, who was believed to guard the door of the year) and although we don’t believe in him, as the year turns on the 31 December, all his curious traditions are played out in most of our homes. A dark haired man is sent outside to stand shivering in the darkness until the clock strikes midnight. Then the door is opened and he is welcomed back into the light bringing with him a lump of fuel, something to eat and drink, money and, of course, the new year. Just an ancient ritual connected with an imaginary figure but one that is sandwiched between Christmas and Easter. Two great events in our Church calendar, but one that is strangely symbolic of our Christian faith and our relationship with God. The waiting in darkness, the apprehension, the death of what has gone before, the fresh hope, the coming into the light and the welcoming back of new opportunities and beginnings. We waited in darkness during advent and since then have experienced the warmth, love and hope found in the light of the stable and in the miracle of Christmas and with Christmas still in mind we plan for another year. Resolutions, regrets and promises to ourselves to do better, we know there will be disappointments as well as pleasure but whatever the past has been the miracle of Christmas is that it brings with it another chance from God to wipe the slate clean and start again. All our fresh hopes for the coming year bound up with his forgiveness and love for us, seen in the eyes of the tiny child we found in the manger on Christmas morning.  We can’t ever deserve his love, we can’t do anything about the opportunities and time we have wasted, the wrong we have done and the good we have not but if we knock on the door, seeking the light, and really want to change then God, our Father, in his mercy, promises us his love and forgiveness. He gives us another chance to join him, to come out of the dark and live a new life with him, in Christ, a fresh start, a new beginning a new person, our debts cancelled and the promise of eternal life and his glory. All we have to do is to accept his offer and, to the best of our ability, try to live our lives as He would want us to.  We’d be fools not to.

A very happy and blessed new year to you all.

Doreen Liston


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