2016 has been an interesting year. We have lived through it as immigrants in America, adapting to living out our own Californian dream.
We watched from afar as our family and friends went through the decision to leave or remain in Europe and woke up surprised that the vote had gone against media predictions. As the economy and businesses adjust to the new outlook, we see some rejoicing in new independence, whilst others look ahead in trepidation.
Meanwhile, in America the news was filled daily with the ins and outs of a Presidential election. The candidates whittled down with debates and developments, gradually weaning out the moderates, the bland and the teenagers’ favourite, Sanders. We were left with Hilary, blazing a trail as the first woman candidate but with a long enough history to have earned some dislike and distrust. And then Donald Trump, who continued to defy all advice, break taboos and speak with such disdain for Muslims, immigrants, and women that many, even in the Republican Party, thought he was unelectable.
So, as new immigrants with no voting rights, we watched as our new friends here voted and we prayed. Then we spent the evening watching the state results come in. There were moments when it looked like the Democrats would win, but it was Trump’s night. We couldn’t quite believe it. My Facebook feed was filled with strong reactions. British friends incredulous and even mocking- ‘America, what on earth were you thinking?’. Some of my new American friends were also disheartened, asking why their own country had voted for a candidate representing intolerance. And yet, there were also friends who rejoiced that he would rebuild business, he would make America great again. Some of my Christian friends believe that he will stand against abortion and put in Supreme Justices who will stand up for Christian freedoms. So we saw strong reactions on both sides. After a day of flooding news and anger-filled social media, I was drained. Just when I was ready to give up on reading or watching anything my Facebook pages filled up again with pictures of cute kittens and funny toddlers. Others had also had enough and were trying to find a new peace. But it will take more than fluffy puppies to turn our hearts to peace this year as we face the New Year with political uncertainties in the UK, the USA and many countries around the world.
Every year I have enjoyed the Christmas readings from Luke 2, multitudes of angels declaring in glory that this baby, this longed for Messiah, Jesus, would bring peace on earth. This year, more than ever, I feel the need to see the world and all that is happening from God’s perspective. God knows the big picture, He has it covered. The perceived rise of racism and intolerance, the uncertainties in my own countries and the endless wars and poverty in others, are no surprise to Him. He has seen it all before, He understands suffering and loves each troubled individual far more than I do. The angels promised that this baby would bring good news for all people; every nation, every culture.
This year, more than ever. we need the Prince of Peace. I will have to find ways of actively living out that peace in my life. Choosing not to get into arguments but showing respect for people with different views. Seeking practical ways of acting out tolerance for those who make different choices from me. Showing love to those who feel scared and marginalised. It may feel like this New Year is taking place in a world that wants to burn bridges and build walls. I choose to build bridges and step over walls. Oh dear- am I sounding like a politician? Time to stop thinking out loud and turn to God for peace in 2017.
The baby who was incarnated to bring Peace on Earth, grew up in a violent, intolerant and troubled world and brought peace through his life, death and resurrection.
“For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Colossians 1
Mandy Catto has played an integral role in Activate Your Life for several years. Leaving her job as a tutor at Moorlands College in 2015, Mandy and her family live in California as she studies for a Master’s Degree in Theology.