January 2023

A New Year is here… but with some of the same problems of 2022. We still have a cost of living crisis, soaring energy bills, continued Russian aggression in the Ukraine, and a rather persistent COVID pandemic which is also bringing with it lots of colds and flus which we’re no longer resistant to. Surprisingly, Theresa and I managed to come down with COVID on the week before Christmas, following a long day of four services. Since then, I’ve been testing regularly hoping to get back to work to take Christmas services, feeling rough and concerned about how Christmas would pan out. COVID isn’t a thing of the past, it is a present and real danger especially for those who are elderly and frail.

Every New Year I reflect on words written by Minnie Louise Haskins and used by King George VI in his 1939 Christmas broadcast:

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. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

It reminds me a bit of Dylan Thomas’ poem which begins “Do not go gentle into that good night… Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” But Thomas’ lines are so tragic. A raging against the inevitable. A sense that darkness, death, evil cannot be conquered. A futility at the heart of our being. A raging at a darkness which overwhelms all things.

Haskins, on the other hand, turns to the man who stood at the gate of year and asks for light to tread out into the darkness – light rather than rage, something to dispel the darkness, something to show us the way. The man replies with the offer not of impersonal light, but the promise of putting our hand into the very hand of God. She follows his guidance and is led towards the light, towards the East, towards the breaking of the new day.

A New Year offers us so many choices, resolutions, commitments. Haskins poem reminds me that whatever the new year brings, I am always better going forward holding onto God than raging against the shapeless darkness. In stark contrast to such impotence, Christmas has reminded us that ‘God is With Us’, that Jesus has promised to be with us to the end of the age and into eternity. He is the Shepherd, the one who provides and offers healing. He is love in person.

At High Street, we want to live that love. To welcome all. To share God’s love with all who come through the doors. To represent the very best of human kindness in all we do. To share the love of God with Maidenhead in all we do in the church and in our online ministry (search for us on YouTube). That’s the commitment we’ll be making in our Covenant Service at the beginning of January and living out throughout the year.

You’d be welcome to come and join us. Whenever you want to, onsite or online. We’d love to share some of our understanding of the God who offers you his hand to lead you into the year that stands before us.

God bless,

Pete Phillips
Revd Dr Peter Phillips,
Minister, Thames Valley Circuit.

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