Saturday, December 28, 2019

God of the Circling Years

During the Blue Christmas service at our church in town, the pastor asked each person to select a Christmas ornament from several that she had placed on the altar. We were to choose the one that best represented the way we felt this Christmas.

I chose a blue bulb with an encircling silver design that reminded me of a river or waves or wind. It was a pattern that could have been found on ancient pottery or textile. To my eyes it also resembled the yin-yang symbol of ancient China.

When my wife and I returned home, we hung the ornaments on the frame of our bay window in our living room, over our small Christmas tree and olive wood nativity scene. I have been contemplating my selection ever since. Meditating upon the ornament has become part of my morning devotions during Christmastide, which is the traditional twelve days of Christmas beginning the 25th. As the new year approaches it has become meaningful to me as a symbol of the future as well as the past.

Time flows in a never ending stream. From our perspective on this planet, time appears cyclical with no beginning and no end. The seasons and years come and go. The dark and light pattern on the bulb elicits thoughts of the good and the bad that makes up our lives. Weakness and strength. Joy and sorrow. The third chapter of Ecclesiastes was read at the service, and it continues to echo in my heart.

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

The words of a hymn written by Pittsburgh pastor, Hugh Thomson Kerr, during the First World War also comes to my mind:

God of our life, through all the circling years,
we trust in you;
in all the past, through all our hopes and fears,
your hand we view.
With each new day, when morning lifts the veil,
we own your mercies, Lord, which never fail.

God of the past, our times are in your hand;
with us abide.
Lead us by faith, to hope's true Promised Land;
be now our guide.
With you to bless, the darkness shines as light,
and faith's fair vision changes into sight.

God of the coming years, thro' paths unknown
we follow you;
when we are strong, Lord, leave us not alone;
our faith renew.
Be now for us in life our daily bread,
our heart's true home when all our years have sped.

Through all the circling patterns of light and dark that make up our lives, the divine design of our lives is beautiful. Ecclesiastes 3 explains, “He [God] hath made everything beautiful in his time.” The darkness as well as the light make it so. 2019 was good. 2020 will be good. As God said in Genesis as he sat back and contemplated his creation: “It is very good.”

May God bless you with a beautiful year of light and dark in 2020. May we always see the pattern of our lives as beautiful. For as the scripture says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

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