The first lines of Minnie Louise Haskins’ poem ‘God Knows’ which is better known as ‘The Gate of the Year’ are:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown". And he replied: "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way". So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
Unlike now when these words were written in 1908 it was not a particularly tumultuous time in World or British history and it was not until the Christmas message of King George VI in 1939 when he quoted them that their inspirational character was recognised and acclaimed.
We have heard the equally comforting words in these last days from S.John’s Gospel, ‘The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him … to all who receive him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; …’ (John 1:9-10, 12)
More light heartedly the legend of the 10th century Bohemian Duke Wenceslas as sung of in the mid-Victorian carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ by John Mason Neale gives the same message about entrusting oneself to God, walking in the Light, and gift of the Christmas Spirit is to be without fear and at all times.
In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted; Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed. Therefore, Christian folk, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing. (Fifth & Final Verse)
In the challenging times we continue to find ourselves, each of these sets of words will bring us comfort and hope as we reflect upon them afresh as each speak to us of Emmanuel, God with us.