Minister's Blog

"Thoughts for the Day" on Nevis Radio

Monday 2 January 2023

According to a Scots tradition Handsel Monday is the first Monday in a New Year. It was customary to present a small gift on this day, a token of a wish that the person receiving would experience peace and prosperity in the year to come. It comes from handselen, an Old English word meaning a handing over.

The tradition of a first foot is more familiar. There was a Celtic custom qualtagh, the first person to cross your door in the new year, who usually brings a gift.

Some people open their back and front doors at the turn of the year. In parts of England and Scotland people would say ‘the first footing prayer’ featuring the open door. The door is opened to welcome Christ, whether he comes in silence or in the company of other guests.

It is near enough the start of 2023 to repeat some of the words of the prayer:

This day is a new day that has never been before. This year is a new year; the opening door. Enter, Lord Jesus, we have joy in your coming. You have given us life, and we welcome your coming. May all my eye looks on be blessed and be bright. My neighbours, my loved ones, be blessed in your sight. We welcome your coming, Lord. This year is a new year, the opening door. Be with us, Lord we have joy.

Christ entered our world. He came as the babe in Bethlehem, as Emmanuel, God with us. He comes today by his Spirit to bring hope and blessing.

Wednesday 4 January 2023

Last year the BBC repeated a documentary about the life and work of Lochaber deerstalker Alex MacDonald from near Achnacarry. Viewers learned that his task is not sport but maintaining a healthy and manageable deer population.

Rev Alexander Stewart, ‘Nether Lochaber’ mentions a famous deerstalker from near Glencoe, Raonull-mac-Raonuill-‘ic-Iian whose trusted dog is celebrated in a Gaelic poem. Raonull-mac-Raonuill-‘ic-Iain came to an untimely end at the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645.

The deer was important to the Celts. There is a famous prayer, the deer’s cry or the lorica of Saint Patrick, also known as Saint Patrick’s breastplate. It calls upon God for his protection, strength and protection.

I sometimes pray in this tradition as Christians in the Hebrides in past days did. It is to think of heaven as near and its active and unceasing goodness as coming down right to where we are in the ordinary things of life.

God is not merely creator but protector, father, friendly companion, sending his holy angels to help us. No detail of everyday life is too trivial for God to be interested in.

These words are a part of Saint Patrick’s deer-cry.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me.