Thank God it’s January! – David Watts

Thank God it’s January! – David Watts

Jürgen Prochnow – U-boat commander in the classic

film Das Boot – facing mortal peril in the Atlantic

during WW II, looked forward with longing to

Christmas back home in Germany and hearing again

the account of Jesus’ nativity in Das Lukas Evangelium

– Luke’s gospel. The incarnation of God’s Son is indeed

the most wonderful beginning of his saving

intervention in world history. Rightly we celebrate with

singing, feasting, exchanging gifts and family

togetherness. Yet high expectations can be unrealised.

These earthly blessings are pointers to our eternal

home, not ends in themselves. For, in the words of C.S.

Lewis: “we were made for another world”.

Christmas festivities can’t go on for ever. There are

definite limits: for time with relatives plus

consumption of box sets and Quality Street! The Bible

mandates cycles of work and rest, including holiday

feasts and recreation. So why should we joyfully

embrace the arrival of the New Year? – observed

globally in January; but Chinese New Year starts a bit

later: January 22 in 2023.

New Year is an integral aspect of the created seasons:

In Genesis 8:22, God affirms:

“As long as the earth endures,

seed-time and harvest,

cold and heat, summer and winter,

day and night will never cease”.


This annual cycle – understood scientifically as due to

the tilt of the earth’s axis, in its elliptical motion around

the sun – manifests the reliability and faithfulness of

God. But time and history are essentially linear, rather

than cyclical. History is moving progressively closer to

its consummation in the final “Day of the Lord”; to the

second Advent of Christ. Thus, St. Paul writes: “The

hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber,

because our salvation is nearer now than when we first

believed”. (Romans 13:11).

By resuming work – paid or unpaid – in January, we

resume deployment of our God-given gifts.

These are integral to our identity and personal

fulfilment as God’s image-bearers. Christian ethics

enables us to distinguish between first and second

things. First things concern our restored relation to

God as his children, through faith in his Son. When

Christians are liberated from making hopeless idols

out of secondary things – including work, family and

recreational activities – we are free to fully participate

in them proportionately and enjoyably. We earthlings

are sharers in our God-given responsibility for human

flourishing upon earth. We have diversities of natural

gifts. And our contributions – both large and small – are

essential to the common good.

For the Christian, there is an added motivation: God

is our ultimate master. We don’t necessarily like our

Prime Minister or the Chief Executive of any

organisation we may work for. But God our Maker and

Redeemer stands above them all:

“Whatever you do,

work at it with all your heart,

as working for the Lord, not for men,

since you know you will receive an

inheritance from the Lord as a reward.

It is the Lord Christ you are serving”.

(Colossians 3: 23-24)