Reader Writes, January 2017
The New Year is the time to reunite ourselves with our spiritual wild side. Singing Hymns Ancient and Modern is something for Sundays but it isn't the same thing. The Creator of the universe has touched us, and he has plans for each of us. We are made with star dust, and the hands that made the stars fashioned the human soul. It is wild and unfathomable and breathtakingly thrilling. Even the Church holds on to some of this wildness. In the Orthodox Church, just after the winter solstice at our Epiphany and their Christmas, they burn the Badnjak, or yule log. Sparks fly up into the winter darkness, the priest chants a hymn of rejoicing, the people eagerly press round. Essentially it is a pagan rite, recruited by the Church to remind us that new life is born out of the old. God's ancient rhythms are celebrated. If you go into an Orthodox church at this season you will find trays of germinated wheat, another pagan rite of new life that happily and wildly reminds us that God of all the earth is our sovereign life giver. There in the very deadness of things, at the coldest blackest moment, God's redeeming Spirit is at work bringing something new.
If we are tempted to doubt whether our God has redeemed all people, give thought this Epiphany to the coming of the Magi. These foreigners, these wise men who had studied the times, these migrants, had come from the East, visitors to the King of the Jews, the Messiah for all mankind. Again and again we find in scripture the reassurance that God sent his Saviour for all people. And so it was that the Church broke out across the world. But those peoples of northern forests who looked up into the endless stars of a winter sky searched for the Creator of the universe before the Gospel ever reached them. Why? Because God put eternity in the hearts of mankind. We can't help but recognize him, feel him, in the wild-wood of our hearts.
At this dying time of year all gardeners, all woodsmen, all those who look, will see new life erupting from the wreckage of the old. What joy to find tiny catkins on the frosted nut bush; breathtaking to see the swelling buds of pussy-willow tossed in January gales. Stock doves distantly sing hope from their oak tree citadels, and the sweet dunnock trills furtively in the rain-lashed hedge. Grab the metaphor! Out of wreckage comes new life! Out of the loss, God heals broken hearts; from crushed souls he forges strong love and beautiful courage. As the old branches fall in the gales and leaves are transported into the earthy factory of the soil, God dismantles the pain and anger of past wrongs. We can step over our rubbish because it is all food for building new life. It is all useful. Hope is built from God's will to give us new life.
When the Magi saw the star settle over the inn and its stabled treasure, the ruler and shepherd of all God's people, everywhere, these wise men from only God knows where ......”when they saw the star they were overjoyed”. We were meant for this.