“When presently the twelfth stroke of the clock shall have sounded, we stand again at the opening of a new year. For that year also God appoints the beginning. He plants it. His divine hand commits the germ of it to the life of the world. But likewise His is the knowledge of what the end of the year shall bring us. Whether for you, for one of your dear ones, it shall be the last year of life; or whether for you or for one whom your soul loveth, it will be the year of conversion and of coming into life; whether roses will be strewn upon your way, or thorns on the stalk shall smart and wound you. He knows all the trouble that this year shall burden your heart…. And therefore do not fear and neither be afraid, but now at the change of years, in childlike confidence grasp the faithful hand of that Father who is in heaven.”
One of my readings each December, as one year ends and a new one begins, is from Abraham Kuyper, the mystic who was also the prime minister– the great Dutch “renaissance” man of a century ago who was a journalist, an educator, a theologian, and a politician. In a wonderfully rich collection of meditations that follow the liturgical year—Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Old and New Year –Keep Thy Solemn Feasts offers some of the most thoughtful reading that I do.
Profoundly attentive to his time, writing with nuanced understanding of the intellectual and social complexities of the early 20th-century, he was also deeply formed by the possibility of intimacy with God, of a life marked by honest and true faith.
(Another of my favorite books is the one that has 110 meditations that Kuyper did on the one phrase from Psalm 78, “It is good to be near unto God.” Yes, it is called “lectio divina” and has been the practice of people who yearn for something more, for a long time. I know of no better book for people who live in the world and long for a contemplative life too; the book is simply, To Be Near Unto God. He wrote these during his years as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.)
Yes, it is true, still true a hundred years later, “When presently the twelfth stroke of the clock shall have sounded, we stand again at the opening of a new year.” May that which matters most, in this life and the next, be what matters most to you as December 2011 becomes January 2012.