The wheel of time has turned again, and we are on the threshold of a new year. As you review the twelve months that are now part of life’s history, how do you feel about them? Has it been a time well spent, mixing routine chores and essential duties with highlights of new experiences, achievements and decisions made that turned out well? Perhaps it has seemed like an endurance marathon, coping with unexpected problems, health issues or relationship tangles. Some special event, such as a wedding may have added a luminous jewel to the store of memories, or perhaps a sad loss still aches like an unhealed wound on the heart. For most of us the year has unfolded as a family mix of triumph and woe, elation and disappointment, joy and anxiety.
Frances Ridley Havergal, `the sweet singer of England` bestowed on our church heritage a rich legacy of hymns that still resonate with relevance and potent faith today. In her little poem `Happy New Year` she muses on the good gifts that would bring happiness to all who would be blessed by her sincere donation.
“What shall I wish you? Treasures of earth?
Songs in the springtime, pleasure and mirth?
Flowers on your pathway, skies ever clear?
Would this ensure you a HAPPY NEW YEAR?
What shall I bring you? What can be found
Bringing you sunshine all the year round?
Where is the treasure lasting and dear
That shall ensure a HAPPY NEW YEAR?
Faith that increaseth, walking in light;
Hope that aboundeth, happy and bright;
Love that is perfect, casting out fear;
These shall insure you a HAPPY NEW YEAR.
Peace in the Saviour, rest at his feet,
Smile of His countenance, radiant and sweet,
Joy in His presence! Christ ever near!
This shall ensure you a HAPPY NEW YEAR.
From the experience of her own short but phenomenally productive life, there were the daily gifts that had brought warmth, light and purpose to her days.
It has been noted that happiness consists of three elements: something to love, something to do, something to hope for. Translated into terms of faith the Christ centred life finds satisfaction, inspiration and motivation in all these requirements.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson reviewed the year whilst listening to church bells announcing the passing of the old and the arrival of the new year. A sample verse from his poem expresses his sentiments.
“Ring out the old, ring in the new
Ring, happy bells across the snow
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”
He longs for an end to the miseries that blight society with poverty, ‘the feud of rich and poor, the sin and faithless coldness of the times,’ false pride, civic slander and spite. In their place he asks for truth, light and common good. He ends his wish list for times ahead with these words.
“Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand.
Ring out the darkness of the land
Ring in the Christ that is to be.”
Let us hope that kindliness will indeed link human to human in a spirit of helpfulness across our world, counteracting the isolation of the digital age, and the corruption that denies basic human rights.
Have you recently bought a new pair of shoes? The old shoes display a visual story of a journey in time that was taken through all the emotions that disable or empower us. They are loose and worn down at heel, stretched with the bend of the foot, stained by puddle and storm. They are still comfortable like old habits, like routine tasks successfully completed or the unheeded tick of procrastination’s clock. It may be time for change.
The new shoes are shaped in the fashion of the maker’s design, in a suitable tone and with a flexible sole that puts a spring in the step. Slip them on. By prayer, ask God to set your inner sat nav, and head out towards new horizons, new opportunities and experiences, new challenges tempered by the remembrance of God’s faithful grace and mercy, and spiced by a delicious sense of hopefulness.
Happy New Year!