In a year dominated politically by uncertainty, rancour and lies, I want to end the year with joy.
Joy is promised by the angels in Bethlehem to the shepherds.
You may be a bit surprised by my joy list – it’s not exactly toe-tapping happiness. But it hints at the deep abiding hope and joy that we can have if we believe that God ultimately has everything in his control.
So my first joy filled moment of gratitude is that God is always for the poor, for the people at the edges of respectability. We dumb down Christmas when we prettify the angels into girls or cherubs. They are creatures of power who by-pass the king and surprise the shepherds, men on shift-work at the bottom of the social scale.
I am grateful for that reminder when I read that in the UK, the top 20% of people own 47% of the wealth while the bottom 20% own only 4%. The 5 richest individuals in the UK own as much as the poorest 13 million!
These figures make me want to despair but I am inspired to hope because I believe in a God who loves shepherds in Bethlehem and a refugee family fleeing to Egypt. And it inspires me take hope-filled action.
I thank all of my friends who are actively involved in action that addresses injustice – proud to be in the same sphere as Kim Vanden Hengel, Stephanie Biden, Aashima Samuel, Emma Dipper, Yamini Ravindran, Fiona Boshoff, Nabila Nakhla, Ruby John and so many others who deserve to be named.
My second joy is that truth telling still matters and fierce men and women are willing to tell truth well. It’s not a mistake that one of the 10 commandments is ‘Do not lie’, because lies entangle while truth sets us free from complacency, selfishness and fear.
Journalists battle and even die to promote truth and expose falsehood and casual mis-use of statistics. We all know there has been a surge in fake stories and broken promises so I urge us all to support reputable journalists by paying for quality news services and taking the time to have serious conversations about the world, staying away from ranters and those who play with truth.
The ‘wise’ men in the Christmas story had a meeting with the manipulative King Herod (later revealed as a cruel killer) and chose not to trust him. Elizabeth and Mary, two ordinary women, chose to believe the amazingly unlikely truth proclaimed by angels and their joy was real.
Christmas is a time to celebrate truth (even if I hide my dislike of another unwanted present). I appreciate my journalist friends Leslie Hook, Julia Bicknell, Xia-Maria Mackay and Timothy Goropevsek.
My third joy is in simple precious things. Not exactly raindrops on roses, but close. I am grateful for time spent with my family – my lovely kind daughter and son, my grandsons who celebrate life every day, my husband who this time last year was recovering from a massive coronary attack, and my extended family. There is my family of friendship which is also a great web of laughter and sympathy.
The Christmas story tells us that Mary ‘pondered’ all the amazing and ordinary things that happened at the time of her son’s birth – Joseph’s support, the shepherds stopping by with a strange story to tell, a mystery star, her cousin Elizabeth having a baby after so many years of infertility, and her own baby – totally special yet totally human.
Who can believe in joy in these strange and troubling times? If we don’t have faith in the good news of Jesus, we must trust in the dubious ways of humans – of Brexit, climate disasters, impeachment and nasty populism.
I love the way that women around the world live in the ordinary everyday but also reach for great heights of goodness. I am grateful for multi-talented, hard-working and gifted women like Christine MacMillan, Jenifer Johnson, Shunu Choudhury, Tina Ledgister, Hannelore Illgen and Karen Schenk who are wonderful models of faithfulness.
And of course, all the un-named women and men who, like the shepherds, are bearers of good news. It seems to me that the good tidings of comfort and joy brought by the angels are worth pondering anew.
Have a joy filled Christmas.