The Very Reverend Andrew Swift speaks about our annual New Year greetings and when the tradition of this new ‘fresh start’ should end.

St Paul's Episcopal Church Rothesay
St Paul's Episcopal Church Rothesay

When is the right time to stop wishing each other “Happy New Year” or a “Good New Year”?

We are still pretty close to the start of 2018, and as we meet folk in the supermarket or in the street, it still feels right to be greeting them with best wishes of the New Year. But the year is getting on.

Research says (apparently) that by now most New Year’s resolutions have been failed and abandoned.

Are we almost at the point where the New Year starts to feel a little awkward?

When we meet someone for this first time in 2018, and it’s July, a New Year greeting would be just strange and embarrassing.

But where are we now?

The churches can take a strange approach to a New Year.

In the Scottish Episcopal Church we have a New Year that begins at the start of December, when the preparations for Christmas begin.

We are also charities, and have a charity New Year that begins in October of each year.

We also keep a special festival, 50 days after Easter Day, called ‘Pentecost’ or ‘Whit’ that is regarded as the ‘birthday’ of the Christian church, so that also feels like another New Year starting for Christians.

Add to that the conventional New Year that we have just kept (or are still keeping, if it’s not too awkward and embarrassing) and we have a confusing collection of beginnings!

But the Christian faith is all about new beginnings of the most important kinds. Christians believe that we have a God who loves all people and all things.

That can seem a hard thing to believe in a world that can feel to be dark, broken and difficult.

A God of love can feel far removed from natural disasters, wars, political tension.

A God of power who loves all people can make personal grief, illness or difficulties complicated: why does God allow all these things to happen?

But the Christian church that was born on Pentecost, nearly 2,000 years ago (and which keeps so many other New Year celebrations) is about a fresh start for all people, in Jesus Christ.

His life, his teaching and the belief that we have in him, have inspired millions to work to make the world a better place, and to treat all people, whatever their situation, with respect and compassion.

That feels like something that can really bring light and comfort into this broken, dark world.

As we start another year, we can resolve to be better people.

We may be about to stop exchanging New Year’s greetings in the Co-op and on Montague Street (all far too awkward now…).

But we need never stop having hope in the power that good people can have to make this world a better place!

And may I wish you a warm and safe New Year, with love, from all the Christian communities of Bute.