Happy new year – again??
On the face of it, the names of the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th months of the year might lead
you to suppose that there were still two to go! Long ago the Romans gave us names for the months, so September means 7th month, October means 8th , etc. Apparently they marked the new year on March 1st . It still feels like a good time to be looking forward, with the flowers and the returning birds and even the temperatures starting to feel a bit like spring. (Sorry if there’s snow on the ground when you read this!)
The month of March always includes some weeks of Lent. Lent is a misunderstood season. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a time-expired question, not least because many people give up things they should not be eating or doing anyway – so where’s the good in that! Much better to ask more searching questions such as ‘what would Jesus do?’ or ‘how can I better follow Jesus?’, questions which Lent was invented to encourage. March can be that fresh start.
No-one supposes that we can somehow imitate the life of a first-century Palestinian Jew! But following Jesus is just what we should be trying to do. His priorities are being lost sight of in recent years. What about support for the vulnerable, helpless and hopeless, locally and on a global scale? We are even getting worse at the protection of children – a strong
theme of Jesus himself. Then there is his other list, feeding the hungry and supplying the thirsty, welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting the prisoners. All these graces are in short supply.
Top of the list must be the future care of planet earth, about which there are words but not deeds (the very thing which Jesus so criticised). And I haven’t even mentioned the uncertainty over Brexit or Trump. Sometimes it feels like Narnia, winter without Christmas.
But there was Christmas! And now there is Lent, a few weeks to come to terms with what Christmas meant. Then there will be Easter, setting the seal on the message of Christmas. God with us, not to condemn but to support and strengthen. Lent is not a time for ‘giving up’!
Revd Peter Brain