This article was published in the Hackney Gazette on 19/12/2013
Kings have been in the headlines during 2013. We celebrated the birth and baptism of Prince George, and anticipated our future kings: Charles, William and George. On its 50th anniversary, we remembered the famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech of Martin Luther King Jr. Cinema-goers will flock this week to see The Hobbit: Pt 2, with its story of the return of King Thorin to his mountain kingdom. And of course, we have spent the past two weeks remembering the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela – a exceptional man who was like a king to his nation.
Christmas cards depict jolly Santas and dancing snowmen; or perhaps travelling wise men and peaceful scenes of starlit Bethlehem. But they don’t capture the significance of that first Christmas. Christians believe that although the birth of any baby is significant, there was something special about this child. Baby Jesus, meek and mild, is actually the promised king from God. His birth focuses our anticipation and expectations: ‘the hope and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’.
Hackney is a rapidly changing place, and 2013 has seen further growth of the fashion hub and tech city. But in every rapidly changing society, there are winners and there are losers. The Hackney Foodbank is feeding around 230 people a month. The Hackney Winter Night Shelter is providing hostel accommodation for homeless people. Neighbours scrape a living on ‘poverty pay’; they’re unemployed or underemployed. Long-term disabled are forced into work by threat of benefit sanctions. For every wealthy tech-entrepreneur, there are a thousand more silent sufferers.
Before Jesus’ birth, God promised that ‘a new king will arise’, one who will ‘judge the poor fairly and defend the rights of the helpless.’ Following his example, it’s my hope and prayer that 2014 will be a year in which we care better for the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us. It’s my hope and prayer that however you spend this Christmas, you may know the peace and the joy that God promises to everyone through Jesus our King.
Revd Graham Hunter
Vicar – St John’s Hoxton