We brought in the New Year with our growing family. Since the children have left home a few years ago, Elizabeth and I have become accustomed to watching their lives from a distance.
However, there are happy reunions when they make their occasional and seasonal return to Ebenezer, and this Hogmanay was one of them.
Christine and Mark, James and Debbie, and Alasdair and Esther with little James William joined us for the occasion. Rachel skyped from Colorado, America, just as we sat down for our evening meal, so with the handheld tablet perched on the table, I got a rare collective family photo of this Hogmanay. The last time that we were all together was four years ago. On that occasion Alasdair had begun to join the family circle and spent his first Hogmanay with the whole family at Ebenezer, with the thought that Rachel would be in Colorado the next year and Esther married. So 31 December 2009 was the last Hogmanay and New Year that we were together as a family.
It has been a particularly cold and stormy winter, with the lowest air pressure recorded at Stornoway since December 1886. So it was cosy to gather around our glowing wood stove after our meal with our expanding family. We had family worship, in which we usually read consecutively through the Old Testament and New Testament, as well as sing our way consecutively through the Scottish metrical version of the book of Psalms. On the 31st day of the last month of the year, we had reached the 31st chapter of the book of Proverbs, a book of spiritual wisdom.
We decided to exchange our presents in the evening instead of the customary arrival of the New Year, as young James William had to take to bed before midnight.
We watched a BBC documentary on How Auld Lang Syne Took Over the World. This was due to its emotional content, its catchy pentatonic tune and its unique call to an expression of corporate bonding in its distinctive crossover handshake. It was acknowledged that very few singers know all the words, (my father is one of the few who learned it as an Ayrshire lad), but the theme of recollected friendships is enough to make it the tear-jerking global phenomenon that reminds us that human beings are longing for the reconciliation and friendship that only rarely surfaces in life.
The New Year is a more important celebration in Scotland than any other annual national celebration. Just after the chimes of New Year, the new technology allowed Alasdair’s parents to join us on Skype and then Rachel joined us also on Skype and we sang together her choice of Psalm 67 as our introduction to the New Year.
Although the family has left home, such reunions remind us that our family is growing. The next generation has arrived and is arriving, and our expanding family is a reminder that God is “gathering together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him” Eph 1:10. The family of God is growing on earth and in heaven. “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” Eph 3:14-15.
A Happy New Year to all my readers, and may none of you miss out on this heavenly blessing.