This was the pastoral letter that I wrote for my church magazines at the beginning of the year.
At the beginning of the year, Methodists often sing one of the innumerable hymns that Charles Wesley wrote during his long and productive life. It begins like this:
Come, let us anew
our journey pursue,
roll round with the year,
and never stand still till the Master appear.
Because of its ‘new year’ theme, this is one of those hymns that we sing only rarely. This means that we often forget how to fit the words to the rather complicated tune! It is a wonderful hymn, though, that reminds us of how God is present at all times of the year, and all stages of our life.
As with so many of Charles Wesley’s hymns, the words still challenge the reader, even after nearly 250 years. In particular, the verses remind us of the inexorable passage of time, perhaps in an uncomfortable manner:
Our life is a dream,
our time as a stream
glides swiftly away,
and the fugitive moment refuses to stay.
It reminds me of how I often wish that we could hold on to a particular moment of time and press the ‘pause’ button on life. Perhaps a lovely gathering of friends or family, a beautiful concert, a glorious summer’s evening. Yet, as the hymn reminds us, “The arrow is flown, the moment is gone”.
We spend so much of our life worrying about what is to come, and perhaps regretting what is past. The hymn reminds us, though, of the importance of valuing the precious moment that is now. This is something that Jesus exemplified in his life and witness. He lived conscious of the past and the future, but always seemed to treasure the ‘now’. Despite the best efforts of the disciples to hurry him along, he always found time for the people he was with at that moment and enjoyed their company. This is a model that we could all learn to emulate.
As the new year rolls on and the days steadily lengthen, let us all learn from that example and try to treasure those we have around us now and the blessings that God still pours out in all our lives. May we all know his peace and presence in 2017, and always.
Hymn words: Charles Wesley (1707–1788). Sundial picture: By Jeepika – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32368147.