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The hopes and fears of all the years (01-01-2021)

Carol O Little town of Bethlehem (Phillips Brooks 1835-1893)

O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.


The words in today’s reading are those spoken to John the Baptist when he was still in his mother’s womb proclaiming him the forerunner of Jesus.

As we read them at the dawn of a new year, let’s ponder how Christ himself is a new dawn for the world.

Reading (Luke 1:67-70, 76-79)

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn[c] of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.’

Reflection (by Archbishop Stephen Cottrell)

My English teacher at school seemed to have eyes in the back of her head. She always saw what I was up to.

Every New Year’s Day I acquire the same skill.

I look backwards as well as forwards. I remember what has gone, as well as looking forward to what will be.

This year, more than most, I look back with sadness at the hurts and challenges of 2020, but with great hope that 2021 might be different. And I do it with the God who, in Christ, gives light to those who dwell in darkness, even those in the shadow of death. God’s eyes and heart behold the hopes and fears of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Christ is always the light in the darkness. In him we make sense of our place in the journey of the passing years. He holds out to us a lantern, lighting our path through whatever lies ahead.


As the light fades this evening, light a candle and place it carefully in your window as a sign of hope for 2021.


Loving God, this New Year, guide my feet, comfort my heart and strengthen my will, that with your hand to lead, we may build a better world.


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