From the Rectory – January

Pop singer, musician and philanthropist Cliff Richard, the country of Myanmar and New Years Eve have one thing in common. They were all previously known by another name. Cliff Richard was born Harry Webb, Myanmar was Burma and New Years Eve was rather unimaginatively known as Old Years Night.

Spectacular celebrations to mark the passing of another year and the welcoming in of a new one occur the world over, and Samoa in the South Pacific is the first to get the party started. This hasn’t always been the case though. Up until 2010, Samoa was the last country in the world to see the calendar turn from the 31st of December to the 1st of January. Following a government decision, Samoa moved to the west of the international date line, and were subsequently the first nation to see in 2011.

The rationale behind the move was that it put Samoa in the same time zone as Australia and New Zealand, who are their major trading partners. As the Samoan Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi explained. ”While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand, and when we’re at church on Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.”

The start of a New Year is often a time that people have sought to make a change in their lives, be it diet or exercise or work/life balance, although nothing usually quite as drastic as the change that Samoa made.

In a letter written to some of the first followers of Jesus Christ, the writer describes Jesus as ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’ – God is unchanging. At the same time, in one of the tensions of apparent opposites that Christians so often live with, the bible also records God saying through an ancient prophet, ‘see, I am doing a new thing’.

These two aspects of God’s character are a wonderful focus for the start of a New Year. God continues to act in our world. He creates anew, he finds fresh and exciting ways of building up and strengthening the weak and the weary. He continues to search out the lonely and the lost. And in a world where change is constant and unrelenting, he remains the same God of love.

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