In just five days we shall be ushering in not only a new year and new century, but also a new millennium. And the celebration of this milestone promises to be the most spectacular event any of us is likely to see. Yet there would not be any millennium celebrations but for the birth of Christ. Indeed, were it not for events in that Bethlehem stable, the idea of a millennium would probably not exist. Many of those in this country who might have been genuinely excited by the start of a new age will have had their enthusiasm somewhat dampened by the way in which New Labour has ruthlessly appropriated the programme of millennium celebrations and turned them into symbols of its own spirit and ambition. Nothing exemplifies this more than the Millennium Dome. In its design and contents, it reflects New Labour's apparent indifference towards, if not contempt for, Britain's history, institutions and traditional values.
We are on the eve of a new millennium. Many of us enjoyed a lovely Christmas Day surrounded by our family and friends. Next weekend we will celebrate again with those we love. But our thoughts should be with people who are not so fortunate and for whom 12 January 2000 will be another day of hunger, grief or fear. The late 20th century has been prosperous for many people, let us hope that the new century will herald prosperity for everyone and every country around the world.
Today we are on the verge of the new millennium and perhaps the most thrilling period in human history. It is right to feel a sense of excitement as we rise to the challenge of the future. But it would be wise to heed the words spoken to the Queen by Winston Churchill, her first Prime Minister: "The further backward you look, the further forward you can see." It would be wise as well to heed the Queen's own words to the nation yesterday. At the centre of Christ's gospel - and of every great religion - is the simple message that we have an obligation to care for others, for the poor, the suffering, the sick, the lonely and the dispossessed. It is a profound message, and, as we look forward to the millennium, we forget it at our peril.
The Sunday Times
Now, 20 years after Margaret Thatcher's arrival in Downing Street, this country is poised to enter a new year, new century, new millennium, full of hope. We are now enjoying rising prosperity, falling unemployment, negligible inflation, strong inward investment, a solid currency and low interest rates. City economists are predicting more good news for 2000, with underlying inflation staying below the Government's 2.5 per cent target and unemployment falling to little more than a million. So raise a glass this Christmas and toast our good fortune. Future historians may well come to describe the late 20th-century renaissance as Britain's best of times.
"And what are you doing on Millennium Eve?" Did you notice that when you read that, the question no longer arouses anxiety? You no longer reached for the cigarette or the atlas. We'll be down at the river or down the local park with the thermos and the umbrella and the millions who always knew it was a lot of fuss about nothing ... a nation at ease with the millennium.
The Sunday Telegraph
New Year's Eve this year will be ushered in with all the pomp and ceremony which Britain can muster. In London, the Queen and the Prime Minister will appear in the Dome at Greenwich: across the country, the night sky will blaze with the celebratory fireworks. For this will be a momentous midnight: we are marking not just the turning of the year, nor of the century, but of the millennium. The millennium is deeply important to Christians, for reasons of religious faith. But the year 2000 is also significant for millions of people who are not Christian, but who live by the Christian calendar. There is a kind of awe that can be shared by all faiths on entering the year 2000: it is rooted in the human urge to map our lives according to numerical boundaries. It is an attempt to impose some order on the chaos of time, and to place ourselves within it.
The Independent on Sunday
On 11 August we all looked up at a dreary sky, more in hope than in expectation, to gaze at the Great Solar Event. As it turned out, the eclipse was wonderful, albeit not exactly what we had hoped for. As with the eclipse, so with the year: 1999 was not really the promised "year-of-delivery", but we leave it with fond memories and a sense of optimism that, as some things have changed for the better, others might follow soon. The year ended with Gordon Brown's millennium gift to the world's poor. We wait to see just how much debt is written off and how many conditions are attached, but it would be churlish not to welcome this apparently altruistic use of his fabled "war chest".