Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Gate of the Year

"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 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!' "

When I graduated from high school in 1975, the Concert Choir, of which I was a part, sang this at the graduation ceremony. Through the years, from time to time, the words have come back to me.

This morning, as I was thinking about the new year and what it holds, these words came to my mind. It has been a long time since I've thought about them.

That brought to mind another song. An old gospel song that I remember hearing my grandmother sing in her beautiful alto voice when I was a child:

I don't know about tomorrow,

I just live from day to day.

I don't borrow from its sunshine

'Cause the skies may turn to grey.

I don't worry o'er the future,

'Cause I know what Jesus said,

And today I'll walk beside him

'Cause He knows what lies ahead.

Many things about tomorrow

I don't seem to understand

But I know who holds tomorrow,

And I know who holds my hand.

I can still hear her voice singing those words as she went about her daily housework.

As I was thinking about the uncertainty and turmoil in our world today, I thought about my grandmother's life. About the things she went through.

The man she loved and who she would eventually marry went off and fought in the battlefields of France in World War I. She raised her family during the Great Depression. Her only son went off and served in WWII. She was widowed at the age of 54. She battled cancer and won not once, but twice. All that and the other ups and downs of life. I'm sure she faced things I never knew about.

But she knew what to do during all those tough times. "Hold to God's unchanging hand." I learned that at her knee. And at the knee of my mother who faced her own battles with the same fortitude. Prayer. Holding on. I woke up in the morning to the sound of my mother's voice praying. She knelt beside the old floor furnace in the hall outside my bedroom as she cried out to God before she went off to work in the early morning.

My life has been far, far easier than the lives of my mother or my grandmother. I believe it's largely due to their prayers. They built up a memorial of prayer for my brother and me. I'm eating from vineyards I didn't plant and drinking from wells I didn't dig.

Still, I have my own challenges. And the world I live in can be a frightening place. Terror. War. Disease. Economic uncertainty.

But, I know what to do. As we step through the gate into the year of 2009, I'm keeping my hand in His. "I know who holds tomorrow. And I know who holds my hand. "

As a footnote to this post, I would like to add that according to Wikipedia, the song I quoted at the beginning is part of a poem, "The Gate of the Year."

"This poem was written in 1908 by Minnie Louise Haskins, an American lecturer at the London School of Economics, who wrote as a hobby. It was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth the late Queen Mother, who showed it to her husband King George VI. He included it in his famous Christmas message broadcast in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War. After the King's death the Queen Mother had it engraved on bronze plaques on the entrance to the King George VI Memorial Chapel, Windsor, where both are now interred. It was also read at the funeral service of the Queen Mother."

Interesting bit of history isn't it?

And now from the Z's:
Happy New Year! May God's richest blessings be yours in 2009!


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Susan said...

Mike!!! Thanks for stopping by!!! And for your kind comments. We all were so happy we got to see you, Holly, and Ben over the holidays. Your beautiful children are growing up way too fast. Hope you'll stop by often.