The Queen and many of our religious leaders have helpfully given Christmas messages, reminding us together of eternal values and failings they reviewed the passing year, looking with hope to the year that starts next week.
There are many new years. Cheerfully, in a country like Sri Lanka, followers of other religions are as happy as Christians to say merry Christmas although the day that celebrates the birth of Jesus, the Christ, is only recognised as a day like each full moon, a day when alcohol cannot be sold or consumed in public.
To mark our lucky lengthy years of marriage, our children have joined us with their spouses and the grandchildren for a holiday in the beautiful home of Ceylon tea where my grandmother’s cousins developed tea estates and experienced the ups and downs of life, including home tuition by post, lengthy separations and the trials of the Japanese during World War Two.
There is a gentleness that is common on the coast of West Sussex and on the south coast of Sri Lanka. There is also a touching ability to say or to write words that mean much. The manager of our hotel has hosted many famous cricket commentators, including those who covered the recent exciting Test match in Galle.
Before going away himself, and after experiencing our eight grandchildren for days, he generously wrote about serving Great Britain with honour and distinction, noting that his guests go about life in a humble and dignified manner – a lesson for all, he suggested. We had just adopted the friendliness of his colleagues.
The Queen recognised life’s baffling paradoxes: we have a huge propensity for good and yet a capacity for evil. I shall remember her sentence: “Even the power of faith, which frequently inspires great generosity and self-sacrifice, can fall victim to tribalism.”
No person and no family can display a sign saying that everything is always all right. I see families as the places and the people to whom each of us can turn when anything or everything has gone wrong. I hope that my children, grandchildren and godchildren know they could always find refuge with us. We can be supported in prison, in hospital and at times when our own fears, mistakes or deliberate misdeeds overcome us.
There are times for justice, for penalties and for public shame: whenever and whatever, every person needs acceptance, and in the right attitude of repentance can receive forgiveness.
Among the saints, in to me the recent past, was Irish Senator Gordon Wilson.
The people around Jesus could only have guessed the legacy, mostly good and inspiring, of their lives with Him.
Let us all with one accord try again to become parts of the solutions to the difficulties of others and to the consequences of the temptations that face each of us?
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