Thought for the month
“Perhaps you are like many others who are feeling an excited optimism after the raised glasses of last night and the hugs at the stroke of midnight. This morning we are poised at the beginning of a new adventure, so let’s celebrate with William Walton’s What cheer? …”
Be merry and glad this good New Year!
“Lift up your hearts and be glad
In Christ’s birth”, the angels bade,
Say each to other, if any be sad:
Now the King of heav’n his birth hath take,
Joy and mirth we ought to make;
Say each to other, for his sake,
I tell you all with heart so free:
Right welcome, welcome ye be to me;
Be glad and merry, for charity!
Be merry and glad this good New Year!
This is how Frances Finn started the first Radio 4 Daily Service for 2018. Her thoughts continued: “On this New Year’s Day, isn’t it heartening to know that we have a God who is very much the God of new beginnings. With Him, our mistakes are forgotten as quickly as Christmas is over. It’s almost as if He edits them out of our Review of the Year, and we truly can begin afresh.”
And we share her prayer:
Lord, thank you for this new year. Thank you for the anticipation that comes with looking at the very first page of our calendar. A new start. A fresh beginning. We know that you are already writing on the pages of the days ahead, and we say “Your will be done”.
Lord Jesus, you are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Thank you that you hold each day in the palm of your hands. Lord help us to trust you with our tomorrows and to truly live for today.
We are sorry when we have dwelled in the past, and perhaps held onto hurts or grudges. As this new year begins, help us to let go of our grievances. Show us where the past is holding us in its grip, so we may move forward with a clean heart.
[You can hear a recording of the carol by The Cambridge Singers by clicking the snowdrop image, and access the whole service by clicking this link]
Earlier this week our former minister, Eric Potts, sent a card that featured one of the stained glass panels in the church he now attends, the church of St Nicholas in Radford Semele. Timely as always – only this afternoon our Wednesday Fellowship focussed on St Nicholas, whose feast day it is. The church is medieval, but was gutted by fire in 2008 and restored five years later, so the design is new. The panel shows St Nicholas in his Orthodox Bishop’s stole, and displays the text “how much more will your Father give” (Luke 11:13). The three boys are the ones he is said to have rescued from a brine tub and the water represents his wide travels and the fact that he is the patron saint of the sea and sailors.
One of the best-known stories, represented by three gold coins, is that of the gift of bags of gold thrown through a poor man’s window as the dowry for three poor girls, who might otherwise have been forced into prostitution. This morning we were reminded by the Rev Lucy Winkett in her BBC Radio 4 “Thought for the Day” (available at this link) that similar needs still exist, and are not confined to the fourth century.
His generosity is what has morphed the real St Nicholas into our Santa Claus. But Nicholas gave in secret, was alert to others’ needs, and expected nothing for himself in return. As part of your preparation for Christmas, we encourage you to reflect on how our image of Santa, and our celebration of Christmas, compares with how St Nicolas acted? Read the imaginary dialogue between Santa Claus and St Nicholas at this link.
And then pray the St Nicholas Prayer: Loving God, we thank you for the example of St Nicholas, who fed the hungry, brought hope to the imprisoned, gave comfort to the lost, and taught the truth to all. May we strive to imitate him, by putting you first in all we do. Give us the courage, love, and strength of St Nicholas, so that, like him, we may serve you, through loving our brothers and sisters. Amen.
In this month of remembrance, we’re printing the homily that Michael Paterson shared with the St Margaret’s congregation at our All Saints/All Souls service on 5 November:
A woman was spotted standing silently for hours outside an embassy in London with a candle in her hand. For months on end, she came at the same time every week and simply stood there, candle lit, saying nothing and smiling at passers-by.
One wet night when she had been there for hours and was soaked through, the security guard felt sorry for her and came out to talk to her. “You are wasting your time,” he said “you will never change the world, you know.” “I know I won’t change the world,” she said, “but I can do everything I can to make sure the world doesn’t change me.”
Holding a candle for God’s values in a world that has a different set of values is what turns sinners into saints. And that folks is our Christian calling.
One soul well on its way to becoming a Saint.
What more needs said than “let us do likewise”. Amen.