On this first Sunday of the New Year, I had scant hopes as I prepared worship yesterday.
It being the first Sunday of the month, the rota declared it an All Age Eucharist - but with temperatures below zero, the schools still on holiday and many families having turned out to both the Crib service and our Christmas morning All Age Eucharist, I truly did not expect many, if any, children in church this morning.
I desperately wanted it to be a "success", as, against my better judgement, I had accepted the decision of the Redemptorists (who produce our weekly pew sheet) that today should be celebrated as Epiphany, rather than Christmas 2...and I do so love Epiphany.
Also, this weekend marked the 60th birthday of Singing Guide-Dog Trainer (she sings, not the dogs...) AND the diamond wedding anniversary of a rather lovely couple in the congregation, whose major celebration was planned to be cake and coffee after the Eucharist this morning....so really, it was not a good weekend for low church attendance.
So I worried.
I wrote two versions of the sermon - with and without children.
and I worried some more.
When I woke in the chill darkness, and saw just how heavy last night's frost had been my heart sank
When I reached church and realised that the pipes had frozen and we had no running water in the church hall, it plumbed new depths of despair.
But one day I'll learn
God actually wants us to enjoy being his family together.
God doesn't want us to flounder and fail..he wants us to relax into joyful success
And today, with 11 under 16s in church, with old and young together sharing with enthusiasm in chalking the door and praying blessings on the year ahead, and with another cheerful procession of Kings, percussion playing children and adults to the crib, I felt the warmth of God's smile and a new certainty that we are travelling in the direction he would have us go.
What more could I ask as the New Year begins?
At the 8.00 Communion and at this afternoon's Evensong for village on the hill, I quoted those words that George VI used with such power in his Christmas broadcast some 80 years ago
"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"
Tonight, as I remember the feelings of anxious hope that dominated my words and thoughts as we celebrated Epiphany at St M's one year ago, I'm thankful that I am home in the place and with the people whom God has given to me for the while.