WITH Christmas behind us, it is time to contemplate seeing in the New Year. There will be much back slapping, hand shaking and wishing friends and colleagues a “happy New Year”.

Looking back on the past few weeks, I gained the impression that the anti-Christian lobby is continuing to make headway in trying to remove Christ from Christmas and put in its place a secular holiday under a title such as ‘Winter Festival’. UK society is continuing its slide towards becoming a secular society.

I often meet people who tell me that they are anti-religious and hold no faith whatsoever. Yet, in many of these people I can see that they are in fact in the powerful grip of something that comes close to being a religion. It is called ‘consumerism’.

Many people have stopped going to church, chapel, synagogue or mosque or never started going to such a place and are drawn to the 21st century ‘temples’ called superstores or retail outlets. Some can’t even be bothered to pay homage to the god of consumerism by actually visiting the superstore very often and do all their worshipping through a computer, laptop or smart phone.

At this time of year, under the banner of ‘January sales’ we shall see many people so devoted to their worship of material things that they will actually fight each other to get their hands on the best bargains.

On all sides we are bombarded by adverts trying to convince us that we cannot possibly survive another year without investing in what they have on sale.

The big question is, how happy is consumerism making our nation now that it has such a powerful grip on the majority of the population? Having turned away from the worship of a spiritual deity, how happy is consumerism making its followers?

I am an optimist by nature and yet as I look about on this New Year’s Eve I have rarely seen so much misery around. People under great stress are to be found everywhere and in increasing numbers.

The cost of living is going up as inflation takes off and incomes for many are restricted. Yet, still consumerism demands more sacrifices from us.

I cannot find a public service that isn’t in crisis or close to it. This includes the NHS, the emergency services, schools, the armed forces and you will notice that I haven’t even mentioned Brexit yet.

The organisations trying to relieve the suffering of so many are at full stretch. For example, the food banks are busy and getting busier by the week.

Who are the people giving of their time and money to help others? I know that many of them are Christians or followers of another faith. I know many such people by name. I don’t think any of them would regard themselves as wealthy but they are people that I define as the 'givers' in our society. They give of themselves in many ways, always looking to share their time, money and talents.

These 'givers' will be filling in their new diaries for 2018 and the entries will crowd the pages with plans to reach out to help others. Not for them the enticement to buy non-essentials. Instead, they will be looking for opportunities to serve those less fortunate than themselves. Only a tiny proportion of these 'givers' will be mentioned in the New Year’s Honours or receive recognition in any other way.

Nevertheless, I am sure that it is the 'givers' who have the best chance of experiencing real happiness in the year ahead.