Half a dozen friends getting together for a meal to say thank you and welcome the new year seemed a good idea at the time.
It fell to my lot to make the arrangements with the restaurant, a popular place in town which I know well.
I was there at the scheduled hour to welcome the visitors, but one by one the messages came in to say that they couldn’t make it.
One informed me that her father was in hospital, another had not yet returned from a Christmas trip away, another had been caught in a road accident and his car was a write-off.
Then there was illness and a 40th birthday celebration. All legitimate reasons.
That left me on my own, waiting and hoping that maybe just one of them would turn up before bed-time. Fifteen minutes, 30, an hour. To cover my embarrassment, I ordered a snack. Just as I had finished eating and was drinking coffee, a member of the group arrived, and we chose again from the menu.
The irony of it all was that these good people were planning to use the occasion to entertain me, and there was I, asking the restaurant manager for permission to pay the bill the following week, because I had forgotten cash, card and cheque-book. An amusing story, every detail true. No bad feeling, and I was sure that another opportunity would present itself in the not-too-distant future.
On rehearsing this anecdote when I got back home, I thought of the thin line between reason and excuse for not taking a particular course of action.
A New Testament parable has to do with guests being called to an important feast, and each one having an explanation for not being able to attend.
The host was most unhappy and not willing to accept their stories.
The parable serves to illustrate the danger of refusing an invitation from God to be receive his grace and forgiveness. In view of the consequences, one needs to think long and hard before turning him down. My hope and prayer for myself in the coming twelve months is that I may always be completely open and honest before him.
PS: The ‘Stargazing Live’ programmes on television this week have proved to be just as fascinating and entertaining as the previous series, not least the current search for evidence of life on Mars.
I’ve been wondering whether any of the presenters would be brave enough to suggest the possibility of some truth in Genesis chapter 1: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’