What will the New Year bring?

What does 2019 have in store for us?

Well if you buy a copy of this Friday’s Lynn News, you can find out in your horoscope for the year. Their astrologer is ironically named Cassandra Nye. Cassandra was a Greek princess cursed by Apollo to give dire prophecies that no one would ever believe!  I rather liked her advice given to Taureans: 'Take charge, don’t sit at the gate snorting, barge through it.' Despite her doom-laden name, all of Cassandra Nye's horoscopes are positive, every star-sign has a bright outlook for 2019. George Orwell wrote that ‘any horoscope will seem true if it tells you that you are highly attractive to the opposite sex and your worst fault is generosity.’

Astrology was in ancient times taken very seriously indeed. The ability to make predictions based on observation of the night sky was one of the skills of the Magi, whom we celebrate on the Feast of the Epiphany. The Magi had been around since the time of the Medes and Persians. The term Magi was used to refer to those engaged in occult arts. From it are derived the words ‘magic’ and ‘magician.’ In the Acts of the Apostles we find Simon the Magus who amazed the people of Samaria with his magic powers. When he saw that the apostles could impart the Holy Spirit by the laying-on of hands he tried to buy that power from them, and was denounced by St Peter.

The term ‘magi’ could be used to describe both those with a scientific approach and tricksters and charlatans. The Magi of St Matthew's gospel were no doubt of the more serious kind. They were watchers of the night sky, looking for changes in the universe. They were also able to interpret dreams, and discerned that they were being warned in a dream not to return to murderous Herod.

Some commentators have seen Matthew’s account of the Magi as signifying the triumph of the true faith over superstition and magic, just as Moses vanquished the sorcerers of Egypt, before securing the emancipation of the Israelites.  But the Magi here are admirable men, who set out on a quest to find out the reason for the appearance of the great star. Crucially they are prepared to find the answer in the most unlikely of places. Although initially they go to the obvious place to find a new-born king, Herod’s palace, they are then open to following the star to wherever it leads.

This new year of 2019, like all years, brings its challenges. One of the loveliest aspect of this Christmas season has been that parliament has been in recess and all its members on holiday and silent, and we have heard very little of the ‘B-word.’ But brace yourselves as they return to the chamber and the debate on the ‘meaningful vote’ starts up again.

What will influence us in this new year? Will we be easily disheartened by Cassandras and prophets of doom? Will we delude ourselves with the false optimism of the horoscope-writers and ignore our problems. Or can we approach this year with open minds and open hearts, and let the Holy Spirit guide us to unlikely places, and discover that the answers to our questions may not lie where we might expect them to be.

May the Holy Spirit deepen our understanding of the truth of Christ, the meaning behind his coming into this world, and its consequences for us.  May the Spirit that enlightens the gospel be our guiding star that leads us to Christ as surely as the magi were led to him at Bethlehem.

I think in this the Magi were most wise,

That when they knelt before humility,

They realized that it was no disguise

But revelation of divinity.

Only the very greatest love of all

Could seek its showing in a babe so small-

This poverty was God’s Epiphany.

And so they knelt before him then and there

Offered their gold and frankincense and myrrh,

And with new thoughts of Him to whom we pray

Went home again but by another way.

Fr Andrew SDC