2nd January

God’s Way For A New Year

Turn back to him whom you have utterly betrayed … Everyone will throw away their self-made idols.  Isaiah 31:6-7

A Church of Scotland minister has suggested that the Reformers of the fifteenth century made a mistake when they abolished the Christmas festival in Scotland. This created a vacuum, he suggests, which the pagan New Year’s celebration of Hogmanay – now dominant in Scotland – could fill.

Whatever the truth of that, we can all glean something from the wisdom of Samson, the Celtic saint who did not see Christians and pagans as enemies. In doing so, we can celebrate the pagan festivals with a wider appreciation.

Samson arrived in Guernsey in the fifth century at the time of the New Year, which, his anonymous sixth-century biographer tells us, the islanders celebrated “according to a vile custom of their forbears.” Samson made friends with the pagans. He included everyone, and he exuded a spirit of love, not judgement.

“Prudent in spirit,” his biographer tells us, “to soften their hardness, he called them all together in one place and, God showing the way, a discussion took place for the removal of so great evils. Then all these folk, truly loving him, forswore these evils for his sake and truly promised to unreservedly follow his guidance.” The children tended to run wild in this season, so Samson called them together also, gave each a little present, and told them in Jesus’ name to change their ways.

His method was one of meeting, not denunciation. Confronted by his dedicated love, the people’s hardness melted away. They threw away all that was empty, and the customs of generations were enriched.

May our celebration of the turning year’s ancient festivals have the same richness!

Lord of the years, may we celebrate the good life past and not forget the Giver of that life. God of the call, may we contemplate the good road ahead and walk along it, with love in our hearts, hand in hand with you.