Sitting here, considering the end of this year, my thoughts turn to what’s next. I wonder, what the biggest headlines of 2017 will be?
In 2016 we’ve seen politics take centre stage, with Brexit and the US Presidential Election the cause of many furious keystrokes from professional pundits to concerned onlookers alike. We’ve watched Syria struggle from afar and, closer to home, we’ve felt the impact of acts of terror in countries not far from ours at all.
We’ve seen a change of Prime Minister, the Queen turn 90, and several beloved celebrities pass away.
For many, 2016 has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
Well, this year I spent about a quarter of my time overseas, by odd coincidence mostly on volcanic islands. From the Azores, to Iceland, to Hawaii, opportunities to talk a little bit more about Jesus were coming up. 250 years ago the gospel hadn’t even reached some of these shores. Back then it would take several weeks, by boat, to even get out there. But today, even Hawaii is more or less a day’s journey away.
On this last trip to Hawaii I made a little bit of a pilgrimage to a special spot. My wife and I flew over to the Big Island of Hawaii and hiked down to Kealakekua (KAY-AH-LA-KAY-KOOAAH) Bay to visit a little piece of British land. This was the spot where Captain James cook died in 1779, and later on, a Hawaiian monarch made a gift of the ground to the British, upon which the Royal Navy set up a memorial guarded by downwards-facing cannon.
We faced a steep hike, descending 1500 feet down a cliff, to reach the bay. The only other option would be to do as Cook did, and sail in. It was hot, and the the path was loose under foot.
Reaching the memorial I felt a sort of reverence for the old man. Called by some as the greatest explorer of all time, James Cook, from Yorkshire, sailed into the great unknown and wrote such places at Tahiti, New Zealand, and Hawaii onto Admiralty maps. All from the heaving deck of a ship designed to carry coal around England.
Cook and his crew would cross entire oceans for weeks on end to search out and document strange new lands. Up to one third of his crew could perish on the long voyages. Just reading an account of Cook’s antics (like Horwitz’s) leaves me feeling like a molly-cuddled modern softy, wrapped in luxury and saved from a life of proper hard work.
Cook’s world was no less fragile and the future no less indeterminate back then, I think. The Colonies at that time were revolting, and at the same time struggling with a nasty Smallpox epidemic. Europe was tense and ‘dangerous’ political ideas abounded. The world was not safe. Yet through this all Cook pressed on, through the fear of the world and the fear of the great unknown.
Our world today is tense. We face our own unknowns. As Christians, however, we are fuelled by a life-giving courage that assures of a real Hope in the midst of ever-present despair. As the great institutions of this world are continually shaken, there is an ongoing opportunity for reassessing what we stake our faith in.
2,000 years ago, in the midst of political turmoil, terror, and uncertain futures, one man stared all of it in the face, lovingly, and was in the process killed for it. Politics, terror, fear, greed, religion, opinion … all of humanity poisoned by the base human corruptor, sin. It looked like sin had won, until three days later when bursting to life Jesus Christ rose from death.
To this day billions of people look, as our Queen so eloquently said this Christmas, to “Christ’s example”, a real hope in the midst of real despair.
Whatever your 2016 looked like, and whatever lies before you in 2017, I pray that Jesus’ victory marks your life more than ever, that you live in His joy won by His victory and boldly step forwards in to His future. God bless you.