From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3245 Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message 2003

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Thu, 2 Jan 2003 11:07:29 -0000

ACNS 3245     |     LAMBETH PALACE     |     1 JANUARY 2003

Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message 2003

A New Year visit to the theatre is something special. At no other season is
there so much choice - from period dramas to pantos, murder mysteries to
musicals. There's something magical about the theatre. It is a different
world in which anything can happen. In this world, with a dab or two of
makeup here and a change of costume there the players are able to transform
themselves completely - to assume new identities, far removed from their
every day characters and personalities. As spectators we enter willingly
into the make believe. We admire the skill of the actors. And perhaps we
feel a twinge or two of envy. How wonderful to be able to escape into
another character, to become someone else altogether - inhabiting that
absorbing world on the other side of the footlights.

After the performance we accept the make believe for what it was. But in
much of the modern world the issue is a bit more serious. We are in the
world not of make-believe but of make-overs. Walk down almost any street in
town, and you'll see banks, businesses, cafes and bars busy reinventing
themselves. Time for a change-to the dicor and the name. Businesses,
charities, seem obsessed with re-branding themselves. You do wonder a bit
how much difference it really makes. So what's going on? I suppose that
behind all this is an anxiety. What do people really think of us, of me? Do
they trust us, do they admire us, do they think we're better than our
competitors? Perhaps if we changed the name, changed the image, we'd look
better, and be trusted and relied on. Worth a try. But how do we know?

Perhaps people trust us even less when we change the brand name? It can be
an infallible recipe for anxiety, permanent, restless concern about how we
look. We're bound to think, as the year changes, about change in general -
and this is just one kind of change. But it's one that tells us some
uncomfortable truths about ourselves, about the way we live now.

So it may be worth remembering that, for Christians, New Year's Day also
commemorates the Naming of Jesus. Christians, like other religious
believers, see God as someone who tells us who he is, who gives himself a
name by which we know him, a name to call him. And we believe that God isn't
constantly anxious about what we think of him, constantly reinventing
himself. Of course, that hasn't stopped us down the ages inventing millions
of pictures of him- human images of our own devising to help us try to grasp
the divine.

But in reality Christians, like other religious people, believe that God
doesn't change-he is eternally who he is and delighted in being who he is.
So God tells us, openly, lovingly, who he is, and invites our response. And
the strange thing is that if we do respond in trust, we discover that our
anxieties about who we are can be dealt with. For if God doesn't change,
there's something in us that doesn't change, something that's always true
and valuable and loveable. No need for constant makeovers.

For me, this isn't just words - I find myself in the middle of some of the
biggest changes in my own life. Still, however the world goes, whether any
of us ends up as a success or a failure, something is there that can't be
destroyed - this year, next year, or ever. I hope that as this New Year
begins you'll be aware of that, and know that there is something beyond
anxiety and fear. God is to be trusted; you don't have to struggle endlessly
in order to be loved. A very happy New Year to you all.

The ACNSlist is published by the Anglican Communion Office, London.

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