Sunday, 3 January 2016

New Year Sermon - 3 January 2016

Psalm 119:105-106; 129-130
Matthew 2:1-12

The Gate of the Year

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."
 Minnie Louise Haskins 1876 - 1957

In December 1939 the world was in darkness; lights went out all over Europe as the world descended into war. There seemed to be little to hope for, little to cheer, little to be glad about.

Into that dark night there came an urgent need for a message of light and hope, and King George VI used this poem to begin his Christmas Speech.

Those of you who were in church over Christmas, either at Watchnight or on Christmas morn, will know I made reference to Light. The light that came into the world and the darkness that could never overcome it.

The Queen made exactly the same reference on Christmas afternoon.
As had her father; the Queen affirmed again the faith that will not let darkness take over.
Even when we are at our lowest
Even when it seems that the world has gone mad
Even when darkness penetrates every corner of humanity
Even then
God is there.

Now. Don’t get me wrong!

There are days when we will not see any light; literal or spiritual.
There will be days when we do feel overwhelmed by it all, that the darkness has taken over and light will never return.

That’s what I really love about this poem – give me a light, the poet asks, so that I may go safely… trust in God comes the reply.

The psalmist understood it too: your word is a lamp for my path. It doesn’t light up the whole region, just that part of the path we tread.
All need patience and time.

And the most patient characters in the bible can be left waiting for a very long time indeed; a lifetime in some cases; some never see the promises fulfilled, but that doesn’t make them doubt any the more.

Then we have these wise visitors; the strangers who came from a foreign land bringing impractical and inappropriate gifts; stirring up an already paranoid and jealous king who lives in a tenuous state constantly uncertain of what will happen next.

That was not so wise!
Yet, they trusted the light.

They followed it, through the darkness of their journeying until they finally reached their goal.

Not the king in his palace, but a poor family, in borrowed accommodation, disturbed and confused themselves by all the attention.

The travellers had trekked far and long to reach their destination.

Knowing against all common logic that something wondrous had happened.
A new king, not of their tribe’ or race, or faith, or culture.
But a new king nevertheless.
Born into poverty.
Born into danger.
Born in unusual, mysterious circumstances.

The star led them; guided them; inspired them.

We have all now received our own stars for this year.

It may be a word you are unsure of.
It maybe one you are delighted to receive.
It may sit, uncomfortably, challenging you in ways you did not expect.
It may already be stirring you; making you think; moving you to action.

Whatever it does; whatever it says, I pray it will bring you, new hope this year, and new light in the darkness.
Like those wise men, all those years ago, may your star lead you; guide you; inspire you.

Remember the psalmist: “Your word is a lamp to guide me…”
Your word
Your star
As we all stand at the gate of this New Year, "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."

STARwords ready to go... if you're reading this blog,
and weren't able to get your own word today,
please ask in the comments below, and I will draw one for you

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