The threshold of each New Year is decked with tinsel and anticipation. Celebrationis the dominant theme. But as anyone who has lived through several New Years knows each year like each day brings its own troubles and challenges. These lie before us unknown scrabbled among the joys to come. How we negotiate the unknown aspects of yet another auld lang syne says a great deal about us and our faith.
Late one damp English night last summer, Debbie and I were taken on an after-hours tour of St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, by a member of the Military Knights of Windsor. An inscription we saw at the tomb of King George VI spoke to us of the faith necessary to deal with the future.
King George VI was the reluctant monarch who guided Britain through the Second World War. His brave story is told in the movie "The King's Speech" in which Colin Firth plays the part of the King. The inscription at his tomb comes from a poem by Minnie Louise Haskins, and it was quoted by the King in his radio broadcast on Christmas Day 1939, the first Christmas of the conflict which would become World War II.
The inscription reads:
"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
When I was young I did a lot of camping, hiking and canoeing, much of it in the Boundary Waters region of Minnesota and Canada. We would trek into the wilderness for weeks at a time, portaging from one lake or stream to another across rocky trails. On one of these trips our guide allowed the group to experiment a bit with our rudimentary navigational skills, and we ventured off our map and wound up in a swampy region beset by clouds of mosquitoes and the biggest, most vicious flies I had ever seen. Even the faint trail disappeared as darkness fell. I still recall the fear I felt testing each footstep, longing for a little more light to see us safely to higher ground where we might pitch camp for the night. But it was the hand of our experienced guide that got us through our misadventure and back on a safe path.
Doubtless we have all been on a path when the one thing we wished for was light. But the King's inscription reminds us that there is something even better.
Whatever this New Year brings - and I hope it brings you great joy - we can be sure it will bring challenges and even sorrows as well. May God's hand guide you through the unknown.