Hogmanay and a Happy New Year

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.

Mrs James Boyd

Yesterday, Debbie Fisher became Mrs James Boyd.  It was a delightful occasion and Elizabeth and I are very pleased for James and Debbie.
The first Mrs James Boyd, the first of many loves in my life, was married on 5/1/51 and passed away on 10/11/10.  The last major function she attended was the marriage of our youngest daughter Esther to Alasdair Macleod; so Esther Boyd became a Macleod, while my mother had exchanged her MacLeod to become Mrs James Boyd. Naturally I was not there to witness that earlier happy occasion, with one foot of snow on the ground, but I was pleased to witness another Snow Queen become Mrs James Boyd yesterday.
The day began and ended well.  The sun was shining in a blue sky when Elizabeth and I had our family worship.  Our usual practice is to sing through the Scottish metrical Psalms consecutively and this morning we reached Ps 45 – the Marriage Psalm.  Then we drove my father James Boyd senior to his namesake’s marriage.  The venue was the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Airdrie, and herein lies is a circular tale.  Senior James Boyd’s grandfather was also James Boyd, who had been the precentor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Kilbirnie, where they are hearty singers, my namesake Donald Boyd in Kilbirnie told me.
During the morning, the skies darkened and the snow came down as a white carpet for our Snow Queen, who arrived to be “given away” by her father Jimmy.  Her mother Helen looked on, and her sister and bridesmaid Hayley watched through tears of joy, as James and Debbie publicly exchanged their marriage vows before God and the assembled congregation, sealed with a loving (and rather lengthy) kiss.
Best man Alastair Manderson dug deep into his sporran for the wedding rings, and the Rev. Andrew Quigley solemnly pronounced them “man and wife”.  The minister then preached a pointed and useful sermon.  He said that the best advice he could give James and Debbie came from the chapter he had read from the Bible: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” Col 3:16.  He noted that those who dwell with us in our homes influence and change our lives more than those who occasionally visit us.  The Word of God had come to dwell in the hearts of this young couple, and it had influenced and changed them.  He concluded by presenting them with the Bible he had used in the service, that it might dwell in their new home with them, to fashion their lives for Christian service.
The Marriage Register was signed using James Boyd senior’s proverbial black ink fountain pen, to record in indelible ink his only grandson’s marriage to the next Mrs James Boyd.
As our Snow Queen emerged from the church for photographs, the sun had clothed itself once more in an azure sky to give the bright backdrop for photographs of the radiant smile on her cherubic face, and of her gorgeous white dress.  Our bekilted man of the moment provided added colour with the best man and bridesmaid in their supporting roles.
After the bridal cars left the church for the reception at the Cartland Bridge Hotel in Lanark, the snow closed in behind them to lay a long white train behind the Snow Queen as she travelled in her stylish white car with her prince Charming.  The sun blazed a trail in front of them and so Debbie with her beloved James arrived at the reception in brilliant sunshine, where a multitude of photographs were taken with various groups of family and friends, including the four generations of James – James Boyd senior, Jimmy Fisher, James Boyd junior and his little nephew James William Macleod.
After a sumptuous wedding meal, we had speeches from Jimmy, James and Alastair, while yours truly took up the rear.  Jimmy told us how much he loves his daughter, James followed by showing how much he loves “my wife”, and Alastair demonstrated how much he loves making fun, at James’ expense if need be.  Jimmy’s pain in giving away his eldest daughter was relieved only by his coming to know the character and qualities of the Christian young man to whom she had given her heart.
The day ended well.  James, as the head of a new Christian family, conducted family worship for the first time with his family and friends.  We sang Ps 1 to begin the practice of consecutive Psalm singing.  He read also a chapter from the Bible.  Yes, you’ve guessed it – he began at the beginning, at Genesis 1, the first chapter of the first book of the Bible.  He made a few comments as he went along, to show that he had learned something from his father.  Thus our young Christian couple have begun the godly practice of reading consecutively through the Old Testament and New Testaments at family worship. One effect of being born again by the incorruptible seed of the Word of God 1Pe 1:22 is that by dwelling in the Christian’s heart it creates a genuine, pure and fervent Christian love which will endure as long as the Word of God itself, “which lives and abides for ever” 1Pe 2:23.
It was a good day, and a new Christian home has begun where Christ will be loved, honoured and served, and where the Word of God will dwell richly to change hearts and lives.
“Lo, children are God’s heritage,
the womb’s fruit his reward.
The sons of youth as arrows are,
for strong men’s hands prepared.”  (Psalm 127:3-4)
“Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.” Ps 127:5

Sing Psalms

A new website promoting four part harmony Psalm singing has been recently launched.

A series of Psalmody CDs called Worthy to be Praised produced by the Psalmody Committee of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) are available. These have one disc of Psalm singing and one disc to teach the soprano, alto, tenor and bass parts for the tunes on Disc 1.

As well as 12 Psalm portions sung in four part harmony, Volumes 4 to 7 include some Scottish Gaelic Psalm Singing and one track of children’s voices. Samples of both English and Gaelic singing can be heard on the web site.

The discs are attractively produced and make ideal gifts. They can be purchased on-line by PayPal or credit card.

Metrical Psalm Resources

  • Exclusive Psalmody
  • Psalms Only: Tradition or Scripture? by Gavin Beers
  • What’s that Tune? a unique index of Sol-fa tunes helps both beginners and seasoned singers of the Scottish metrical Psalms to find the name of a tune from hearing the first line of its melody.
  • “Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk of all his wondrous works” 1Ch 16:9; Ps 105:2
  • “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms” Jam 5:13