This week finds us at the Winter solstice, the very darkest time of the year, illuminated briefly by the man-made blaze of Christmas.
It is traditional at this time to look back on a year that always seems to have passed too quickly, and to look ahead to what the next may bring.
In political terms, 2017 has been an extraordinary year. A general election, intended to secure a clear mandate for the Government, produced instead a hung Parliament. Indeed, such is the current political arithmetic that every individual Member arguably now possesses more influence than in any Parliament in living memory.
Brexit has, of course, dominated the domestic agenda, and will continue to do so for some time to come. Whatever happens in our internal politics, the ineluctable fact is that, as a matter of international law, we will be leaving the EU on 29 March, 2019. All politicians of all parties therefore have a positive duty to ensure that our departure will be as smooth and successful as possible.
Farther afield, the world has seemed a more dangerous place than for many years. The pernicious rule of Daesh in Syria and Iraq has almost ended, but Syria itself remains subject to the malign domination of Bashar al-Assad, propped up by an expansionist Russia and an ever-meddling Iran.
In the Far East, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un poses perhaps the greatest threat of nuclear war since the fall of the Soviet Union, seemingly undeterred from an increasingly irrational, bellicose posture.
Against this backdrop, it would be an understandable reaction to resort to despair; but the world has known appalling challenges throughout its history and has managed to overcome them.
At our darkest hours, when all seems bleak, we should remember the message of peace, love and hope brought to us by the baby in the manger. He, too, lived in difficult times, and fled with his family as a refugee to Egypt. He knew poverty, fear, adversity and rejection, and triumphantly conquered them.
Wherever you are this Christmas, I hope it will be happy for you, your family and your loved ones.