Welcome, God’s Year

For many, 2016 will be a year that few will miss or wish to repeat. It was the year of Brexit and Trump, of many beloved public figures dying, and seemingly also a year of much personal hardship for many people. It was certainly the case for my wife and I this year. Yet I’m determined not to go down the path of declaring it an annus horribilis – not because I enjoyed the year, not because I would like to live it again, but because God’s grace is never absent, in any year, and His mercies are found everywhere.

Less significantly, 2016 was the year that I began to learn Danish. And while this might seem like nothing more than a curious idea of what constitutes a fun hobby, it meant that I was introduced to the poetry and hymns of the 19th century Danish pastor and writer N.F.S. Grundtvig – first via the music of Danish “pastoral folk band” Kloster (listen to their album “Ni Salmer Og En Aftensang” for some beautiful versions of hymns by Grundtvig and others, including Hans Christian Anderson). And, as I have been learning the language, I have been attempting also to translate some of Grundtvig’s lyrics into English.

Here, as a somewhat shoddy offering for the new year, is my rendering of his hymn, “Vær velkommen, Herrens år” (literally “Be welcome, the Lord’s Year”, original Danish text available here). It’s technically an Advent hymn, but looks at Advent as the beginning of the liturgical year, and charts how God’s grace is seen at every key moment of the Church Year. May it be something of a reminder to us that God is never absent from a  year and that no year can be an annus horribilis when we trace the workings of His grace through each day.

Welcome, God’s year,
And be welcome here.
On Christmas night, when the Lord was born,
A light came forth at the darkest dawn,
So welcome, new year. Welcome here.

Welcome, God’s year,
And be welcome here.
On Easter Morning, when the Lord was raised,
The Tree of Life took root in the grave,
So welcome, new year. Welcome here.

Welcome, God’s year,
And be welcome here.
On Pentecost Day, when God’s Spirit came down to us,
Then down came His power, into our weaknesses,
So welcome, new year. Welcome here.

Welcome, God’s year,
And be welcome here.
This now is God’s year, filled up with God’s favour,
New gladness is waiting in each day of God here,
So welcome, new year. Welcome here.

Resolution 2: Slow Fruit

image

Nothing purposed is instant. Fruit grows
first by roots spreading deep,
nutrients drawn, sunlight synthesised,
chlorophyll taking glory from green.
Look to the fig tree. If you see its buds,
Summer’s promise dangles, yet is not realised.
Tantalising, like
a kitten’s ball of yarn, or a note
waiting to resolve, a game
of slow expectancy.
New year brings blossoms
but fruit is never instant. Trees
ask for patient expectation.
Come here daily; look to leaves
yet wait before you pick.

OCD Prayer for the New Year

Image: Wikimedia Commons, Brews Ohare
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Brews Ohare

What lies behind corners can hurt or heal;

What lurks in this heart can wound or bless.

What triggers in mind can remind of the past;

What future is clean is unknown.

Whatever contaminates; whatever is sick;

Whatever is broken, whatever will break;

Whatever may lift and whatever may tarry:

God give, God take, God give.

What heartache or heartsong the year’s days can bring,

What closeness, what checking, what flinching, what kiss;

What cross and what glory; what angst-enclosed fist;

Whatever awaits in the darks of the year:

Lord, hold, hold, hold.

Thanksgiving

This year I wrote a poem for my birthday called “Thanksgiving“, based around Psalm 116. In response to a request from one of my readers, I ended up setting the poem to music and recently recorded it with my friend Dave doing vocals. On this second last day of the year it seems a fitting way to finish a year that has been full of unexpected blessings from a God who is far, far better than we could ever deserve.