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Happy New Year…?

As the chimes of Big Ben fade away and the excitement of the celebrations diminish, Heather Skull reflects on the point of marking the New Year

On New Year's Day I spotted a rather dead looking firework on the green next to my house. It just looks like a bit of soggy cardboard, with no indication that on the previous night night it had caused quite normal people to shout with excitement as it burst into starry golden lights, raining sparkles down on the world.

Man standing in tunnel400
“Man Standing In Tunnel” by adamr/freedigitalphotos.net

It’s just a bit of cardboard. That’s all. The illusion of gold had completely disappeared in the cold light of day.

Sometimes it’s hard to speak the words Happy New Year. They don’t always trot tritely off the tongue. And sometimes it’s hard to speak those words out loud when you know for many people 2015 is going to be filled with challenges and problems. And that was BEFORE the clock tower that houses Big Ben even got to its 12th chime.

More than 30 people have died during celebrations of the New Year in China. In Indonesia the celebrations were cancelled as the consequences of that horrific air crash begin to sink in. In the UK there are people starting a New Year in which they know they will have to find a job after the collapse of City Link.

Father Mulcahy, the ever patient chaplain in M*A*S*H wrote a war song in one episode, which finished with the poignant line, ‘With the pain and death this madness brings, what were we ever singing for?’

And it would be a fair to ask a similar question. Why have we just spent millions of pounds sending explosives and plastic into the air to shower glitter over our heads? One of my friends remarked that he’d watched thousands of pounds worth of arts funding going up in smoke. I found myself comparing the cost of what had been spent on celebrations with all the adverts across Christmas appealing for funds to help tackle the Ebola crisis and children suffering abuse over the festive period. Or paying redundancy money to those who’ve lost jobs.

Now, I appreciate that we’re only a few days into 2015 and this already looks like a blog written by someone who’s a cross between Ebenezer Scrooge and Eeyore.

And yes, I admit it: I’ve never been a big fan of New Year. I admit I’ve often felt it was a night of expensive forced gaiety. That’s not to say I’ve not enjoyed individual New Year’s Eve events, but as a rule, it’s not been something I’ve looked forward to with any particular excitement.

In fact, it is more likely that the excitement of New Year’s Eve soon leads to that cold grey feeling of being overweight and overspent.

The next few days and weeks will be littered with broken resolutions, massive credit card bills and – often – a massive feeling of anti-climax.

And yet. As I watched the crowds gathering for New Year’s Eve in London and as I read the texts and messages coming in before and after midnight I was reminded of what makes us fully human. It is this: Our hope and optimism that things will get better. The hope and optimism that 2015 will be a new and exciting chapter. The hope and optimism that brings many of us through the most difficult times as well as help us to celebrate those exciting moments.

If we knew what was coming we might run and away and hide under the mountain of cardboard boxes and bottles filling up our recycling boxes.

I was reminded of what makes us fully human... Our hope and optimism that things will get better.

But we don’t. We experience each day as a new one. Yes, 2015 will be filled with challenges, but it will also be filled with the kind of moments that will leave us laughing until our ribs hurt.

I had no idea at the beginning of 2014 that I would be losing the job I love. But then neither did I know that I would be jumping out of a plane. Or making a whole lot of new friends. Or know how my old friends would step up to the plate when it really mattered. I never foresaw the pain of leaving people behind. Or the pain of receiving a whole lot of rejection letters from potential employers. But equally I never foresaw the joy of receiving a note from a member of the youth club saying how much she appreciated what I did for them.

There’s a really old hymn that says "God holds the key of all unknown and I am glad. If other hands should hold the key… or if he trusted it to me… “ Well, can you imagine? If we had the key to our own futures? No thank you – or perhaps ‘No Fear,’ would be a better response…

So. Happy New Year to all of us. May we step out in hope and optimism and faith in 2015, may the laughter outweigh the sadness and may there be more light than darkness for all of us. And may we know what we are singing for…

And, as the former UN General Secretary Dag Hammarskjold once said, ‘For all that has been, thank you. For all that is to come, yes!’

Or as one of my youth club might say, ‘Bring it on, 2015.’

Heather Skull is a former BBC Radio Wiltshire journalist and a member of Trowbridge Baptist Church. She blogs at tractorgirl66.wordpress.com, where this article first appeared

Baptist Times, 07/01/2015
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