Thoughts on the New and Old Years
Were you glad to see the back of the old year ??
Perhaps it was so full of mishaps and sorrows that you could find no reason to enjoy it. For some, the Year-That's-Away had much more than its fair share of bereavements and illnesses, of disappointments and frustrations, of failures and shame; and life seemed so miserable as to be not worth the candle.
It is no wonder that people with that kind of dismal experience are thankful to have left the old world of the old year behind, and are glad to stand on the threshold of the new world of the new year, with the hope that the way ahead will not be as joyless, or at least not as difficult, as the way behind. The eternal optimism that buoys up the human spirit makes us believe that we can see a chink of light, a gleam of hope, brightening the dark sky of the future and giving us courage to go on. We remember that if the dark comes down, there are stars in the gloom; and if the stars be hid, we have only to wait till daybreak.
Thomas Carlyle was known for his rich sense of humour, but he also had a somewhat sour view of life. On one occasion, he was speaking of the kind of life even the best of men could expect, and here's how he described it:
'Not a May-game is this man's life; but a battle and a march, a warfare with principalities and powers. No idle promenade through fragrant orange-groves and green flowers spaces, waited on by the choral Muses and the rosy Hours; it is a stern pilgrimage through burning sandy solitudes, through regions of thick-ribbed ice.'
Not a barrel of laughs, then! We can only hope your life and mine this New Year will not be anything like Carlyle's dark and dreary picture. But even if life were like that, what then? Do you remember those marvellous lines from T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" ?
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
Just so: there is always One walking beside you, the One whose birth we have so recently been celebrating at Christmas, and whose name, given at his birth, is Emmanuel, God with us. God is with us every day of our lives, and, more particularly, with us every day of this New Year, the year of grace 2008. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred for his stand against Nazism, was one of those countless millions who through the years have gloried in Christ's never-failing presence. In his prison cell on New Year's Day 1945, he wrote a prayer which could well serve as the model for our own New Year's prayer:
With every power for good to stay and guide me,
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