It has been a damp start to 2016, with the Wear breaking its banks in Durham, and far worse further afield. So perhaps it is not the best year for Alcohol Concern‘s annual “Dry January” campaign.
The thinking behind the campaign is excellent. Christianity, like many religious traditions, recognises the need for tempering periods of feasting with periods of abstinence. This is good for personal and public health, both physically and spiritually.
Christianity is rather out of step with the world, though, on its feasting and fasting. The High Street celebrated Christmas from early autumn; we didn’t begin Christmas until 24 December. The secular party was over within days of that, and talk is now of recovery; for us Christians the party is very much still on. We are still celebrating the manifestation of Christ’s divinity in this time of Epiphany: last Sunday, to the Magi; this Sunday at his Baptism; and next Sunday at the Wedding at Cana. Our crib will remain in place until Candlemas, 2 February.
Of course we will fast, abstain and do penance when we get to Lent… but Ash Wednesday isn’t for another month. In the meantime, we should not let the return to work, to school or to university, be a mere resumption of dry drudgery. Instead, we take the festal joy of the coming of our Saviour into the world of our daily lives. Like the Prophet we continue to shout joyfully on the mountain, “Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:9).