Lecturer's Letter - Preparing for the New Year

December 2005

My Dear Friends,

We look forward with great anticipation to the wonderful season of Christmas but as we approach it, we still have Advent in which to prepare ourselves. But, to prepare ourselves for what? The traditional answer has been: for the coming of the Lord.

Some see it as preparing our hearts and minds for the sacrifice of worship and praise, while we prepare our homes for the sacrifices of festal-cooking and present-giving. Others see it as preparing ourselves for the second coming of Christ, visualised in a triumphant return to earth or, for more of us, as our encounter with him as the one to whom we must give account at the end of our lives.

In a way, since the calendar year ends at about the same time as Christmas, we are also preparing ourselves for the New Year. What a mystery that is. We think back to 1St January this year and can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. How accurately or wide of the mark did we imagine what it would be like? Were we able to embrace the year or has it felt as if we have been kicking against it every day?

So, how do we prepare for the New Year? Do you remember the words on the Tomb of King George VI in St George’s Chapel?

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’
And he replied:
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.’

Christians believe that God, who dwells outside time, holds all our times in His hands. The God who became human so He could both live to show us what God is like and die as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross is the God who is willing to be there for us when things are hard. To receive Christ by faith is to know his mercy and grace; it is also to know the value he places on every human life, including yours and mine. The peace that He gives is a rock-like inner strength which the world cannot understand. When our joys are celebrated with Him, they are doubled; when are sorrows are brought to Him they are halved – or even removed. When other people are placed in His hands, they are in the hands of One who loves them even more than we do.

I hope and pray that 2006 will be for you one of delight and joy but it is unlikely to be smiles all the year through for everyone. However, I do know that whatever any one of us goes through, we need not go through it alone. We can embrace it as the year of the Lord and receive all that still-mysterious future as His gift. His Son has come. He is here. Alleluia.

With every blessing in Christ.

Stephen Morris

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Last revised 25th December 2005