A cartoon published by the Canadian artist Graham McKay (on the same day the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic) showed a small city about to be overwhelmed by the increasing waves of the pandemic, a recession, and climate change, to which I would want to add a fourth as we face as a people the issue of racial injustice raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.

It’s not possible to pretend anything other than the fact, that in so many different ways and at so many different levels 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year……. and yet I believe ‘the light still shines’.

For the Church, not being able to meet physically for much of the year, and needing to do it in a very different way when we could, we have been forced to rethink very quickly about what it is we are trying to be as Church, and how we might go about then trying to be it in the very different world we find ourselves in.

Somebody has described it as ‘the gift of disruption’, and although I’m not sure it is a gift any of us would have wanted to receive at the beginning of the year, and I recognise that for those who have tragically lost their lives this year and for their friends and family it has been anything but a gift, in the care and creativity, the sacrifice and self-giving that has emerged during the pandemic it is possible I believe to see ‘a light that still shines’.

I suspect there are very few of us who have not re-evaluated our lives, looked afresh at what really matters to us, recognised the importance of human interaction, how much other people matter to us. Personally I’m longing to be able to go back to normal.

I want to be able meet with friends and family again, to be able to have people round for a meal, go out for a coffee, play a game of squash, go to the theatre, do the those things which bring light and colour to life. At the same time I’m hoping that we don’t lose the creativity and care that we have been rudely forced into over these last months.

I’m hoping that we continue to recognise and act on the belief that the individual and collective acts of kindness and grace we have seen during the pandemic can and do make a difference to the world in which we live.

‘If 2020 were a brand, what would its tagline be?’

For me it’s the header above for these brief thoughts, taken from the bible verse we used in the Christmas Cards we sent as a diocese this year. A verse taken from the start of one of the gospels which states

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’.

The Rt Revd Dr David Court is the Acting Bishop of Lincoln

As I reflect on the year that has been, 2019 has had changes, some challenges, and some celebrations. There have been moments of joy, of pain, and of grief, be that in a family, across our diocese, our nation, and the world. The year to come I hope can take us away from a focus on winning elections and Brexit debates, to thinking locally about our community, and about our neighbours, where the reality is not always the expectation.

The festive season highlights expectations and reality. We sing carols about the Christ child that tell of peace, hope, joy, and love. However, the year, and the festive season that is Christmas, is not the reality for everyone. Therefore, the royal road that takes us to Bethlehem, when heaven touches the earth, demands a response.

The hard topics cannot be ignored in a family, community or nation. The record demand for food parcels in our county, and no food on a table, is anything but festive and so it highlights the gap between expectations and the reality we live in.

There are also important issues about the nation’s food supply as well. The reality is that this has been an extremely difficult year for our farming and agricultural community. Land still lies flooded and it has been impossible to sow crops in some places. That leads to concern about costs and about income. In the year that has been, anxiety can pile up and sometimes becomes overwhelming particularly with no certainty about the implications of Brexit.

The response to poverty and supporting our farmers and other issues such as health and education I see as important in the year ahead through a renewal of local democracy. The debate has been painful in the past three years. We have had an emphasis on national politics be it as leavers or remainers. I think an important place to start to hear some of the challenges is to hear voices that matter to Greater Lincolnshire. We are part of a nation but need to pay attention to our regional needs and differences. There are debates to be had and I hope to join them as I can.

Dreams were very much part of the Christmas story. On the threshold of a New Year, where life will not be the same, whatever happens in the legislative chamber, we can dream of how we might care for our neighbours and community and move forward as Lincolnshire and as a nation.

When the Christ child was born, and the waiting was over, the royal road to Bethlehem did not end. The shepherds went back to their fields, the Magi left their gifts and returned to distant lands and Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt. The road continued for them and it does for us as well.

My prayer is that the peace, hope, and joy of Christmas will enable us to respond to the realities that will be 2020.

The Rt Revd Dr David Court is the Acting Bishop of Lincoln