Here in Norway new year is marked in the church with services on both new year’s eve, and new year’s day, so we’ve been working.
Services in the Norwegian church always begin and end with bells being rung, so last night, before the 11pm service began, I spoke with other staff about whether our neigbours would really appreciate hearing our bells in the middle of the night (they are loud and had woken us that morning, and what about small children?, etc), but I need not have been concerned as we could hardly hear them for the fireworks, and the voice of prayer was temporarily drowned. However, whilst you couldn’t hear it, in the words of one of my favourite traditional hymns, “The voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away.”
The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.
We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.
As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.
The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.
So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.
Watching the celebrations later on the TV was a reminder of the way that ‘wave of waking’ rolls around the earth: but only because the Lord makes it so. See Psalm 104, especially v19 – 23
19 The moon marks off the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl (elg?).
21 The lions (and polar bears) roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens (and snow holes).
23 Then man goes out to his work,
to his labor until evening. (Or in this case, to party!).
Later in the psalm come these words which I pray for us this new year:
33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
And now for the pictures. New Year’s Day dawned bright and clear, with a deep blue sky: