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Hope, not optimism

20 December 2013

WE WISH our readers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. To review the past 12 months is chastening: the troubles of the Middle East and the plight of its Christians stand out, as does the terrible impact of natural disasters in the Philippines, India, and Australia. For Christians, regime change generally seems to lead to greater persecution. At home, the cheer for homeowners from rising house prices needs to be viewed alongside widespread hardship, bleak life prospects for the younger generation, and an austere welfare regime. Among the scandals of 2013, the Co-op Bank's fall from grace has disappointed many; nor has it been a good year for a free press. But the true joy and hope of Christmas have ever been such as to transcend circumstances. Optimism, as Dr Ward, the Principal of St Stephen's House, points out in his article on the incarnation in Anglican theology before the First World War, is apt to crumble, as it did in the shadow of 1914-18. Yet the optimism had its basis in a real hope; for the Holy Child of Bethlehem who becomes the "tragic Hero who marches before His followers to Jerusalem and who goes out in solitude to die" (William Temple in Foundations, 1912) is the Saviour who has promised that, if he be lifted up, he will draw all people to himself; and "He that hath seen Christ hath seen the Father."

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