There is an ancient Celtic tradition for the first day of January, that will soon become redundant. After the bells ring out to herald the New Year, the first person to cross the threshold should be a dark-haired man bearing a lump of coal. This strange gift is to ensure that the household will always have a warm and welcoming hearth and all who come to sit around it will benefit accordingly. In our coal-rejecting times however, a new tradition must be created for the sake of auld lang syne. The traditional gift with its benediction latches into the highland habit of taking along a small token gift when visiting someone’s home, perhaps a home-baked cake or cookies, or even, in times of celebration, a bottle of something to warm the cockles of the heart.
It is not that the gift is needed or expected, but rather it is intended to convey genuine pleasure in the anticipated companionship and good conversation around the glowing fireside.
A more subliminal characteristic may be apparent in a highlander diffidence over being sufficient in oneself without the added value of the donation when arriving on the doorstep just as you are.
It is a wondrous assurance to discover that the love of God does not depend on the largesse of what we can bring to him. He invites us to simply come just as we are, and to find full acceptance as a child of his loving care.
Charlotte Elliot’s hymn of appeal has often been sung out at church gatherings as an invitation to make a fresh commitment and dedication and to embark on a pathway of faith and renewal.
“Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidst me come to thee
O Lamb of God I come. I come.”
The Apostle John recorded the assuring words of Jesus. “The one who comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37) We do not trade good works for the promise of salvation. God always acts with absolute integrity, planning ahead in his wisdom to maximise blessing and spiritual maturity in each of his children.
During his ministry years, Jesus sought out people just where they were, beside a well, or by a roadside, or mending fishing nets. He called them to a higher purpose simply because he came to seek and to save that which was lost. His love had reached down through eternal ages into the time zone of humanity bringing the sublime gifts of healing and forgiveness.
The first clean page in a new diary presents a daunting yet exciting opportunity to record the choices and decisions that will establish each significant turn of events. There will be happy days, challenging incidents, gain and loss. As it becomes a treasured document of family history, the diary will preserve not only the events of the year, but also our changing attitudes, our hopes and fears, our times of triumph or despair, our strivings through faith to peace of mind. Let us encourage and invest in the many positive discoveries and innovative projects on which we will depend as we face the challenges ahead. Let us give each other the gift of hope at the beginning of this new year.
F. R Havergal wrote a hymn of hopefulness, leaning on the faithful promises of God.
“Another year is dawning
Dear Master let it be
In working or in waiting
Another year with Thee.”