I love the season of Advent crowned as it is by the Christmas Eve/Day services, but as Advent proceeds more and more busyness intrudes into the sense of preparation, anticipation and prayerful reflection. For me therefore, the really special time, is the time between Boxing Day and the third of January. It’s a time when many businesses are closed and the world slows down just a little. A time of preparation for the New Year and a time to pause before the routine normality of life reasserts itself in January.
It doesn’t always work out quite as described, but even when there are perturbations, I still find it a time when there is space for reflection and prayer. For us this year, having the car break down on 28th December helped immensely, because there was simply no temptation to go anywhere or do any of the things that require a car if you live in a rural area. For many years we have gone for a long walk as early as we can manage on New Year’s day and this year was no exception. Lack of a car meant that we could only do a walk that started and ended at home.
So it was off up a rather slippery Achue road, across the moors to the summit of Cnoc Dubh Beag (the small hillock), then wading through the snowy landscape up to the trig point at the top of Creag a’ Bhealaich (crag of the pass) – of which there are several in Scotland, ours being the smallest. The sun was shining, it was very frosty and the air was fresh and clear. On the tops the views were stunning, though there were clouds gathering in the west. A reminder if ever we need it, that we do live in a most beautiful part of the world.
In spite of the feeling of elation, which can be almost overwhelming at such times, the bright sun, the freshness and the beauty cannot hide the fact that in many parts of that landscape people are suffering. In communities and families, as well as the holiday joy and gladness, there is worry, there is sickness, there is grief and there is sadness. Everyday life contains all of these things, and believing that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” doesn’t remove them, but what it does is to provide the possibility of hope. God is there in those communities and in those families, He’s there to be found, but sometimes it’s difficult to see it, to sense it and to feel the benefit of it.
We all have our part to play in helping those in our families and communities who are having a tough time to sense the love of God. And to be able to trust in the Christian hope comes from knowing that God comes to us in our hour of need, leads us into his all-encompassing love, acts in our lives and arranges for our salvation. Perhaps this might just offer a ray of sunlight to those who found that 2017 didn’t end the way that they would have liked it to and hope that in 2018, whilst the old normal can never be restored, a new normal is possible in which love, trust and peace will conquer all.
There’s a Gaelic carol which includes these verses:
|’Nuair dh’èirich grian na fìreantachd,
Le gathan dìleas blath;
Bu mhòr a bha de dh’fheum oirre,
Bu dèisneach cor gach àit.
|When rose that sun of Righteousness,
With rays so warm and true;
Greatly had we need of them,
As woe in each place grew.
|Fo dheàrrsadh grian na fìreantachd,
‘S a chridh bidh sith a’ fàs;
Gu’n toir i ’reothadh millteach às,
‘S gu’n lion i e le blàths.
|Beneath that Sun of Righteousness,
God’s warmth and peace will grow;
It drives away the spoiling frost,
And makes the heart to glow.
John Maclean – the Tiree Bard
Blessings and Peace to you this New Year