In the lull after Christmas Day we seem to automatically go down a gear and begin to ease off from the tensions of work, maybe watching the Boxing Day Test Match or finding time to walk the beach, or just go out for a coffee and enjoy a slower pace of life. We might reach for that book we were given at Christmas and find ourselves engrossed in another world, enjoying the freedom we enjoy now that the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 virus have been eased.
As the year turns into 2021 there are many reasons why we would want to leave 2020 behind and look forward to a brighter future, hoping that life can return to something like ‘normal’. But then we hear about the outbreak in NSW and learn of a more virulent strain of the virus we become anxious again, and rightly so. The lessons of this last year have taught us to be cautious, especially when we see what is happening in many other parts of the world.
I have often been inspired at the turning of the year by that famous poem God Knows, written by Minnie Haskins. Minnie worked for some years in the Zenana mission to women in Madras with the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society and has been described as a woman of unusual capacity and character … a rare understanding and sympathy and infinite patience, combined with a great deal of love and interest in people.
When Britain was facing the uncertainty of war with Germany in 1939, an uncertainty reinforced by air-raid sirens piercing the stillness of the night, King George VI chose to use Minnie’s poem in his Christmas Day broadcast from the BBC. He reminded them of the only true King, the One who can provide true peace and real rest in such troubled times, and then read the preamble of this poem that his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, had brought to his attention.
And 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 light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
It has been popular to make New Year resolutions and attempt to turn over a new leaf at this time of the year, and often many of those resolutions go west after a few weeks. I believe that small changes are more effective than big ones and often lead to more lasting change. This week I had the opportunity of sitting at the beach watching the ships turn from the south channel to go through the rip at Port Philip Heads. On such great vessels the rudder is relatively small and the ship turns at the slightest change of the Ship’s wheel.
If you do make a New Year’s resolution choose something small and manageable like sitting for five minutes at the beginning of the day to read a psalm and hold those you love to God. Keeping up a practice of prayer takes time to become a ‘normal’ part of your life. Do you remember learning to drive and how hard it was at first? But now it has become almost automatic. So I invite you to take King George VI at his word and put your hand into the hand of God this year – just five minutes at the beginning of each day – “That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” . . . and if you want to talk about how you might use that time I would be delighted to talk with you.