By Rev Ivan Neish
I can remember as a child of primary school age a walk that I regularly took which at times used to strike fear into my young heart.
It was quite a short journey, perhaps only a quarter of a mile, along a quiet road. My parents used to send me from our house to the little nearby shop for a Belfast Telegraph at around six in the evening. During the long summer days it was quite an enjoyable trip, but in the dark winter nights, without any lights along the way, the same road filled me with dread.
I was unable to see anything in the pitch black, but I knew that on either side was a hedge, and as I made my way, I imagined all sorts of fierce and frightening creatures lurking in the darkness, waiting to pounce on their unsuspecting prey. My heart would pound and I would make the journey as quickly as I could, in order to return to the safety and security of light and home, thankful that I had made it back unscathed!
However, there were occasions on which I made this same journey in the dark yet felt no fear whatsoever, but rather travelled confidently and without any sense of dread.
You may wonder what made the difference. The simple answer is that there were times when my father travelled with me and took my hand along the road. It was still just as dark and foreboding, but because I had him for company, I felt no fear, knowing that he could deal with anything we might meet.
We are all setting out on the road that will lead us into a New Year, as 2015 beckons. None of us know what that road will be like. We try to peer into the darkness, but we can see nothing.
Perhaps some of you are like that little boy, imagining all sorts of terrible possibilities on the journey.
There is only one way to banish our fear, and that is to make that journey with our hand in the hand of our heavenly Father. This is possible when His Son, whose coming we have just celebrated together, is the One to whom we belong by faith.
He does not promise us that it will be free from those experiences which we might dread, but He does promise that He will always be at our side and in our hearts.
Have a good trip.