The end of this year has felt pretty rough. I don’t know what further excitement awaits between now and 2020, but today as I’m writing Boris Johnson has been sharing his new plans for the country, we’ve heard the promise this morning that Brexit will be done by the end of January, Trump is facing impeachment, and we’ve been forecasted the hottest year on record in the UK in 2020 due to greenhouse gases. Everything feels to be in a state of turmoil, and our country and world feel more divided than ever when we should be uniting to face the problems we’ve created for ourselves.
So, I’m hoping for a restful Christmas. I hope that whenever you're reading this, you've been able to enjoy a short break from the doom and gloom to celebrate with loved ones, and have found some respite in a break from studies or work! At the same time, I feel like I should be making plans for the new year with only a couple of weeks to go before the end of 2019. We all know that January is a time traditionally for making resolutions and promises, which are notoriously forgotten by February. But perhaps it is a useful time to start building practices or actions into our lives which might help to fight some of the hopelessness that can set in thanks to 24 hour news, and the relentless knowledge that awful things are happening all over the world. Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about doing as we enter this new decade.
Get rooted in your community.
Whether this is helping out at a local foodbank, volunteering at church, joining a community garden, or just making an effort to meet your neighbours; giving time to the people around you and moving out of your immediate bubble of people feels important now more than ever as we face uncertain times in which we need to pull together as a society.
Make your voice heard.
After a very intense election time it can feel like all of our democratic power was riding on the vote on the 12th of December. But democracy is an ongoing process, and holding the government to account can be done in many more ways than the ballot box. Perhaps consider joining an advocacy group for migrant rights, environmental justice, protecting the NHS, or any other cause you care about, or attend a local demonstration like a climate strike. Joining with others who care about these issues reminds us that our voices matter, and campaigning really does make a difference.
I think developing a better spiritual practice has been on my resolutions list every year this decade, but it is hard to understate the value of spending time discerning a divine voice in situations we’re concerned for. Whether it’s creating more space in your day for reflection, joining a retreat, or trying a new style of prayer or worship, making room for spiritual nurturing is vital for sustaining our hope and our activism.
Make time for rest.
And not just scrolling on Instagram or binge watching Netflix, but actively taking time to do something creative or restorative, and allowing yourself a break from the noise and despair that can creep in with the news cycles and adverts. Setting boundaries on how much news or media we consume, which can fuel despair or apathy about the world, is so important. Take time away, whether that’s spending time in nature or working on a hobby, so that you can come back refreshed and ready to change the world.
And finally, find ways to be kind to yourself.
Extend to yourself the compassion you show to others, and know that you can’t do everything on your own. Christmas has been about celebrating God abiding with us in Jesus, embracing this messy world we live in as his home and demonstrating community, advocacy, contemplation and joy in his full humanity. Know that you are loved, remember that you are doing your best, and find inspiration in the vision Christ gives us for how the world could be.