Let's just hope it doesn't fly by as quickly as 2018 seemed to --- or is that just old age?
During my boyhood and early teens in Edinburgh, we actually celebrated New Year more than Christmas, an old-established Scots custom. My mother was one of a family of eight, brought up in the mining town of Cowdenbeath, in Fife, and in those days of the 1940's as many of the family as possible would bring in the New Year there. The three eldest sons were married, and the two others in the services, so there would be my grandparents, my two aunts, my parents, my brother and myself, plus whoever was home on leave - a total of up to ten or twelve, and how we fitted into the tiny two up, two down council house I can't imagine.
But fit in we did, and toasted in the New Year with copious amounts of ginger wine (very much a teetotal family, then), plus shortbread and black bun, and as a special treat, the superb fish and chips fetched after a walk across the fields. As the years passed, we children were allowed the thrill of staying up until midnight, and then the still greater thrill of joining in the first-footing of the neighbours, as a piece of lucky coal was carried to each household. When in due course I went to university, I went with friends to one of the city-centre churches for a Watchnight service, while the much more numerous crowds celebrated Hogmanay outside.
Yes, New Year is indeed a time for memories, for re-living the past and perhaps remembering those no longer with us. But above all we should bear in mind the most recent memory, for it is only a few days since we celebrated the coming among us of the Son of God, and we should not lose sight of the fact that we are still in the liturgical season of Christmas. A few more days will see the great feast of the Epiphany, the showing forth of Christ to the nations, and then at the very beginning of February we will have the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, or Candlemas. We were fortunate enough to have Bishop Christopher of Lincoln and Bishop Rob, newly retired from Australia and licensed as an Assistant Bishop in our diocese, to lead our services over Christmas. That good fortune continues when Bishop Nicholas of Grantham celebrates with us at Candlemas.
So, while still recalling and reflecting upon the past, we will find ourselves led gently but firmly into the future. Ahead of us will lie Lent, and then Easter, times of great challenge for all of us, but also times of great opportunity; the opportunity to reflect on our lives, our conduct, our relationships, with those around us and above all with God. We will do so in the light of God's redeeming gift to us of his Son, of his progress to Jerusalem. and then his death and Resurrection for us.
At the same time we will continue to find ourselves faced with another time of challenge and opportunity - the period of vacancy in the parish until a new Rector is appointed. Let us continue to respond to the challenge as we have in recent months, and above all let us seize the opportunity to re-think all aspects of our church life and to re-assess our priorities. The challenge and the opportunity are there not only for the Ministry Team, the Standing Committee, the Parochial Church Council; they are there for all of us who are proud and privileged to call ourselves members of St Guthlac's, and to enjoy all the many benefits which God has provided so richly for us.
Thanks be to God, and may this be indeed a Happy New Year!