The tall, slender and dignified man dressed in the Admiral’s uniform sat at the table staring at the two microphones in front of him. He nervously reached out and adjusted one of them, moving it slightly closer.
Then he stared some more.
They represented an intimidation, these two microphones. They symbolized the great obstacle he had, with persevering struggle, learned to overcome: a life-long impediment of speech – stuttering.
And now, on this momentous occasion, King George VI prepared to address the English people. All the ears of the Commonwealth were attentive to this live radio broadcast.
It was Christmas Day, 1939.
Three months earlier, Adolph Hitler had invaded Czechoslovakia and World War II had begun. Fear and uncertainty gripped the civilized world – and especially England, which stood alone, directly in the path of powerful Nazi aggression. To this once stuttering king fell the duty to both comfort and rally one of the great nations of history in its hour of maximum danger.
King George spoke in a clear and measured tone. There was deliberation but no hesitation in the strength of his voice. He praised England’s “gallant and faithful allies” for their determination to defend the “cause of Christian civilization. On no other basis can a true civilization be built. Let us remember this through the dark times ahead of us.”
Then the King, with a simple and direct eloquence, beckoned his people to look toward the darkness of a grim and unknown future – and in fact to see beyond it:
“A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we all shall be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.”
Then the King closed his flawlessly-delivered broadcast by quoting the words of a poem, written by a retired lecturer at the London School of Economics, Miss Minnie Louise Haskins, in 1908:
“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.’”
Once again, “a new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring.”
Apocalyptical events – natural disasters, increasing violence, extreme weather – have led some folks to talk about the end of the world like there’s no tomorrow. It’s coming but Jesus warned us plainly against the temptation of date-setting.
Yes, it’s a safe bet that the coming year will bring more trials and difficulties for our world.
There will be no spiritual revival in America in 2016 – our cultural slide, marked by banal entertainments and moral nihilism, will continue. Our economic challenges will mount. The Middle East will remain a tinderbox of violence and upheaval.
Terrorism and racial tensions are not going away.
All these things must first come to pass.
So, for the follower of Jesus Christ, is there any good news? Is there any hope?
Yes, the most important news of all is great!
The wise counsel of a fearless king is steeped in scripture:
“Put your hand into the hand of God.”
No matter what happens to us – politically, economically, internationally, or personally – God is still on his throne. He has a perfect plan that he is working in his perfect way, time and circumstance. Nothing that happens in this coming year will catch God off guard nor will he ever be out of control.
He’s had this coming year mapped out in every detail from before he created the heavens and the earth.
No matter what happens in 2016, this fact alone should give us hope to face the unknown future.
Nor shall God ever stop caring for you, guiding you or loving you.
That should make every year happy for the Christian.
“I have cared for you since you were born,” God tells Israel. “Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (Isaiah 46: 3-4, NLT).
“For that is what God is like,” the psalmist reminds us. “He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.” (Psalm 48:14, NLT).
God alone has been our help in ages past. He alone is our hope for all the years to come.
“When the country goes temporarily to the dogs,” wrote Garrison Keillor, “cats must learn to be circumspect, walk on fences, sleep in trees, and have faith that all this woofing is not the last word.”
If this coming year “brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.”
Forget what is behind, Paul says. Instead, let us face the future with confidence and, looking unto Jesus, let us “press on!” (Philippians 3: 13-14).
Our God reigns! And trusting him is “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.”