Posted by: rcottrill | January 1, 2018

Standing at the Portal

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Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: St. Alban (Haydn), by Franz Josef Haydn (b. Mar. 31, 1732; d. May 31, 1809)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Frances Havergal, a pastor’s daughter, had a brilliant mind and a passionate heart for Christ. Though they never met, and there was an ocean between them, Havergal was a friend and correspondent of Fanny Crosby in America. Though Frances Havergal died at the age of forty-three, she left us a treasure of great hymns, such as: Lord, Speak to Me; Take My Life and Let It Be; Like a River Glorious; and Who Is on the Lord’s Side? A second New Year’s hymn she wrote is Another Year Is Dawning.

For the present song, here are a couple of alternatives as to the tune used: St. Gertrude, to which we sing Onward, Christian Soldiers; or Wye Valley, to which we sing Like a River Glorious (but in this case omitting the refrain).

On this blog we’ve considered many different words and phrases, some from our traditional hymns, and some from the Bible. The word this time is “portal.” It means a door, or gate, a point of entry or exit. The door of our house is a portal, serving as both a way in and a way out.

But let’s think of the word in a more abstract way. Taking a new job is a kind of portal. It’s a doorway to both new opportunities and perhaps new temptations. Marriage is a portal too, an entry point into a new life. The birth of a child is another, the beginning of parenthood. And when children grow up and move on, parents must enter a new “empty nest” lifestyle.

There are individual portals associated with age. A baby learns to walk, and talk, and his or her life changes forever. Then there’s entering school and, years later, graduation. And things such as learning to drive, a first job, dating, and so on, all represent moving on to something new. So does retirement, or the death of a spouse, later on. There are still connections with what came before, but those things aren’t the centre of attention they once were.

We can think of the new year in the same way. In a sense, January 1st follows December 31st as just another day. But, the beginning of January has long been recognized as special, even in pre-Christian Rome. In the Roman Empire the day was dedicated to Janus, god of gateways and beginnings–in other words, a portal through which the old is left behind to a degree, and individuals face new events and circumstances. Some of these are unknown as of now, or seen only in a misty outline.

Columnist Walter Winchell once said, “The same thing happened today that happened yesterday, only to different people.” It’s a neat aphorism, but not entirely true. You may have broken your leg yesterday, or received an inheritance of ten thousand dollars, and I may have one or the other happen to me today, but the possible choices and challenges we each face, because of who we are, and our unique experience, may lead us in quite different directions.

For Christians, there’s another dimension to be considered on New Year’s Day–and every day. We need to evaluate our walk with the Lord through past days, and set goals for the future aimed at our spiritual development, and our further service for Christ. In a hymn, Henry Burton wrote, “Live for self, you live in vain; live for Christ, you live again.” And missionary C. T. Studd, wrote in a poem, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”

For the believer, there are two constants to encourage us, as we enter the portal of a new year.

¤ One is the assurance of the Lord’s presence with us (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5), offering daily grace and mercy to sustain us (Heb. 4:15-16).

¤ The other is His wonderful Word to guide us. “The entrance of Your words gives light,” says the psalmist (Ps. 119:130). “Your word is a lamp to my feed and a light to my path” (vs. 105).

These blessings are the theme of this fine New Year’s hymn by Frances Havergal.

CH-1) Standing at the portal
Of the opening year,
Words of comfort meet us,
Hushing every fear;
Spoken through the silence
By our Saviour’s voice,
Tender, strong and faithful,
Making us rejoice.

Onward, then, and fear not,
Children of the day;
For His Word shall never,
Never pass away.

CH-2) “I, the Lord, am with thee,
Be thou not afraid;
I will help and strengthen
Be thou not dismayed.
Yea, I will uphold thee
With My own right hand;
Thou art called and chosen
In My sight to stand.”

CH-3) For the year before us,
O what rich supplies!
For the poor and needy
Living streams shall rise;
For the sad and sinful
Shall His grace abound;
For the faint and feeble
Perfect strength be found.

1) Have you ever made a “New Year’s resolution”? (How did that work out?)

2) What are some basic things Christians should resolve to do (or improve on) in the future?

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Happy New Year Robert!
    Keep on sharing the music!!!


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