Message from the Vicar
Have you counted your blessings today? In an account of a Christmas dinner written in 1836, Charles Dickens said “Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” But what is a blessing? Most of us think we know, but it is very easy to take the word, and blessings themselves, for granted. ‘Blessing’ is much more than the collective noun for a group of unicorns!
On the first hand, in Nordic and Saxon pagan cultures, to ‘bless’ something was to make it holy by some ritual act, which in some cases involved marking it with blood. On the other hand is the Norman idea of benediction, which literally means ‘to speak well of’, or ‘to wish well’. Clearly today, our use of the word ‘bless’, as noun or verb, involves both of these two understandings.
In contrast, the Hebrew culture, from which our Bible emerges, thought of a blessing as something coming directly from God. God is either credited with or is invoked in blessing. From antiquity, ministers of God were able to pronounce God’s gracious favour on people and on food and drink. Traditions of Passover and Holy Communion draw on the idea that the Creator is not only the provider of the food and drink in the first place, but that as we acknowledge and thank him for it, particular meals or dishes take on a special divine significance and power. A blessing also entailed protection and conferred approval. Think of Issac blessing Jacob. Today I am often asked to bless homes, wedding rings and people at all stages of their lives. Who are you blessing today?
So as we enjoy barbecues and summer parties and holidays this season, let’s remember to both count and give thanks for all the blessings we receive from God that come in and through our common faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, and look for opportunities to bless the people around you, both family and friends.