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The Word on the Week

Hogmanay 9th Jan.2016

The last day of the year, known as Hogmanay in Scotland, marks the end of one year and the birth, at midnight, of the New Year.    This is traditionally observed by celebrations spanning the whole gambit from church services to bonfires in the town square.

The practice of “first footing” where neighbours call on those who live next door, bringing with them a new year’s gift, has largely died out.   The ideal was to have a tall, dark and handsome man as the first person over your threshold on New Year’s Eve who would exclaim, “A guid new year to ane an ‘a”.    This greeting would be reciprocated and if the man was of the required description then good fortune was said to come your way for the year.

I am not sure that anyone believed it as the interest focussed more on the gifts.   Originally this was a lump of coal which was handed to the householder with the saying “Lang may yer lum reek wi either fouk’s coal”.   The notion being that with many friends you would get a lot of coal for your fire which would keep it going for a long time!   With changes in heating the coal became replaced with a lump of fruit cake but toast with the “nip” of whisky lives on!

With the advent of television the last hours of the old year became compulsory viewing.   In the early days of TV the programmes were very good bringing out home-grown talent to perform well known music and songs.  Sadly as these artists died off they were not replaced.   TV now goes for the spectacular with iconic bridges or castles floodlit for the occasion the cameras’ global outreach affording views of celebrations in time-zones earlier that our own.

Then there is the climax, usually in London, with the nonsensical countdown to midnight.   Then follows the anti-climax with a badly sung ‘Aul lang syne’ by people who don’t know the words!  

God’s clock doesn’t major on minors but records anniversaries of events in the history of Israel each event recording his faithfulness to his people.   It records too that when Jesus came into the world the time was just right (Galatians Chapter 4 verse 4).   We might think it was a bad time with King Herod in a murdering mood but imagine what it would have been like to have the infant Jesus in the Middle East today!   No, God’s timing is perfect.

Also perfect was Christ’s sacrifice for sin on the cross.   Unlike the High Priest who annually entered the holy place with the blood of others now once in these last days he (Jesus) appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews chapter 9 verses 24- 26).    Now, there is no repetition but the event is remembered as a central part of our worship (St Luke Chapter 22 verse 19).

So this year, long after the New Year’s resolutions have gone, let us remember we have a great High Priest who has opened a new and living way for his people and let us go into this year with confidence that he is faithful (Hebrews Chapter 10 verses 19-23) .