What is your first thought every morning? Do you wake up with a sense of eager expectation, longing to find out what the day ahead has in store for you? Or, do you reluctantly drag yourself from sleep full of doom and gloom? Do you spring from your bed early, making sure you don’t waste even one of the precious hours and minutes that are awaiting you? Or, do you take minutes, even hours, to ‘come to’ whilst you contemplate ‘just another day’? Whatever your approach to each morning, every one of us starts each new day with the same twenty-four hours of possibility.
The last fifteen months have seen us all having to cope with unprecedented limitations on our lives. The first lockdown was greeted with a sense of inevitability. But, as each twist and turn of the government’s response to the Covid virus has been revealed a growing sense of resentment tempered with resignation has swept over the country. However, this does not tell the whole story. Whilst the media industry might be happy to peddle generalisations and cod-science conclusions, we are each immersed in the reality of each new morning. We each have our own lives to live, lives that are suddenly constrained in ways we would never have thought possible just eighteen months ago.
There can be no doubt that some people have coped with isolation and lockdown better than others. Some have used this time to re-invent themselves, exploring new pursuits, re-visiting long-abandoned hobbies. Many have had to find a new pattern of balancing their working lives and their leisure time. Some have seen a strengthening in domestic relationships, while others have struggled as the days have rolled on. Some have experienced the anguish of mental stress and strain for the first time in their lives, while others have mastered a new way of living with themselves. Some have come to the realisation that each new day is a time for which we should be thankful, while others wake each morning with an overwhelming sense of despair and futility. Wherever you sit in this pattern of extremes, each new day is still a God-given opportunity for joy and fulfilment.
Early in Jesus’ ministry we read the great Sermon on the Mount. In this wonderful passage (Matthew, chapters 5, 6 & 7) Jesus presents us with a whole new way of approaching each new day. He begins with the Beatitudes which guide us towards an understanding of the need for humility and meekness, rather than ambition, greed and pride. The Sermon goes on to spell out what this means as we live out our daily lives. Having reflected on the faithful way we should remain true and faithful to our vocation as Christians in this world, Jesus cautions against our obsession with all that is worldly. Instead he calls us to: strive first for the kingdom of God.
Our very human approach to each new day is one of ‘control’. From an early age, the need to be self-sufficient is drilled into us. We like to make plans, to set goals, to follow the paths we have laid for ourselves. But, that is not the Christian way. As each new day dawns, every Christian is urged to praise God and to offer themselves in His service. Each new morning should begin with us asking God what he would like us to achieve in the coming hours, rather than asking God for the ‘good fortune’ to fulfil our own self-obsessed ambitions.
The title for this month’s article is taken from a hymn. The poetry of New every morning invites us to explore our relationship with God in the context of each new day. At no point does this, or any other morning hymn, suggest that we should begin each day in a spirit of despair and doubt. Instead we are reminded that God is always with us, and that God has a mission for us all to fulfil. Our social interaction and our mobility may have been greatly restricted over the last year or so, but that does not mean that our discipleship has been curtailed, it has just been different.
Our longed-for and eagerly anticipated emergence from the Covid restrictions are going to involve change. It is my prayer that that change might be rooted in our starting each new day with new resolve. I pray that that new resolve might begin with us all using something else that is contained in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ gift of The Lord’s Prayer, as the foundation of hope, joy and love for the way in which we use God’s bountiful gift to each of us. I pray that every morning might be new, and exciting, and rooted in our love of God.
Revd Stephen Buckman