If you're feeling blue this January, know you are not alone - Anna Eltringham, Bishop of Ripon

After celebrating my first Christmas in Yorkshire, it now dawns on me that the third Monday in January is ‘Blue Monday’ - officially known as ‘the most depressing day of the year’.

There is even a formula that backs up the theory, factoring in the number of days since Christmas, level of debt, the weather, failure to keep New Year Resolutions and levels of motivation, to get to the result.

Some say it is pseudoscience but the concept captures something of those January blues I am sure we can all relate to, at least to some extent. Fortunately there is also a calculation to identify the happiest day of the year which falls around June 20, near mid-Summer. So only six months and we’ll all feel better again. Interestingly what we don’t see in the formula is a recognition of the state of the wider world and those things which are way beyond our control. And really, since the pandemic, it is perhaps this which really gets us down.

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We just about got through Covid and had hopes for normality to return. But since, we have seen war in the land of near neighbours in Ukraine, the terrible conflict and unnecessary loss of innocent lives in Israel/Palestine and other hidden conflicts in the wider world. Closer to home we also despair at the cost of living and mental health crises.

Christmas trees will be coming down and January blues may be settling in. PIC: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.Christmas trees will be coming down and January blues may be settling in. PIC: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.
Christmas trees will be coming down and January blues may be settling in. PIC: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.

At least the Christmas season gives us a welcome distraction and some good news of hope eternal, as we celebrate God’s light and love breaking into our world through the new born baby, Jesus. But there is a risk that joy may fall by the wayside once January comes, just as we discard the dried out, needle-bare tree into the garden to be sorted out when we feel more in the mood.

In the church the Christmas celebration goes on until Candlemas at the start of February when we remember the young Jesus presented in the Temple.

Most churches keep the Crib up until that time as a reminder that all is not lost, all is not forgotten. Some will even keep the Christmas tree sparkling as light in the darkness. A few days into January we mark Epiphany, the visit of the Magi to Jesus.

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For us, their visit represents an invitation to the whole world to see that God is always with us even on the darkest of days. And the invitation from the church after Christmas and into January can help us grapple with any ongoing darkness in our lives. Millions of people turn out for Christmas services across England, but much fewer continue any spiritual journey into January.

During this time the church explores themes which speak into our world today.

On December 28, the church remembers the Holy Innocents. It is a most awful story that few can forget. The tyrant King Herod realised the Magi had outwitted him and not informed him of the whereabouts of the newborn Jesus. And so, he ordered that all boys aged under two in Bethlehem and its environs to be massacred in his quest to quench the Light of the World. But he failed.

Jesus doesn’t leave us once the Christmas tree is stripped bare. He stays. And as one who was born into the mess and struggle of human lives, he knows and shares our reality.

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God does not take the dark realities of the world away. But he helps us bear them, gives us light to guide us and can start to save us from the things that get us down. So if you’re feeling blue this January, know you are not alone.

Rt Revd Anna Eltringham is the Bishop of Ripon.

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