Hopes and Callings for a New Year

I am sure that many of your screens and timelines are filled with an endless supply of lists, messages, and memes about saying “Adios” to the garbage heap that has been 2020. And here is one more quick message to further clog up your day!

I hope that this Christmastide has been a small respite of love and connectedness that has been so desperately needed this year. I hope that it has been a meaningful and fulfilling time, however that might have looked. Porch visits, virtual calls, a sudden urge to write more cards this year… We can hold this season for both the challenges and blessings it has provided, and carry that with us into 2021. I’ve been telling a lot of folks that the first Christmas in the barn with a young frightened couple and some unexpected shepherd guests wasn’t a very glittery or lively affair; it’s alright that this Christmas hasn’t been either.

But the new year is here. Christ is with us, in full love and full vulnerability. We will soon celebrate Epiphany, the “lightbulb” liturgical season, where we come to greater appreciate the care and wisdom that comes from God’s presence with us in Jesus, and how we are to learn and respond. It’s the time where we should focus on the latter half of the verses in our beloved Christmas carols – the ones that often get skipped due to time restraints, or aren’t published in the more recent hymnals. Like the verse in “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” that isn’t often sung these days:

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,

who toil among the climbing way, with painful steps and slow –

Look now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing;

O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!

We are called to go into the new year seeking peace and rest in God’s new thing, in God’s assured thing of love made known through Christ-with-us. And we are called to go into the new year seeking out others who are weary on the road, helping them find rest and support as we journey on together. We carry the promise of glad and golden hours to come, and are encouraged to take time to sit with the struggles and blessings we know are ahead of us, knowing of God’s loving presence and shepherding care through all of it.

The Apostle Paul tells us that “… if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Paul writes this as an appeal for reconciliation and trust in God’s appeal and empowerment for renewal and transformation. Take this to heart when you are tempted to toss the past year in the dumpster. Yes, there will be better days ahead. But those days will also include reconciling and addressing the iniquities that have been exposed this past year, the continuing work of holy justice for the lowly, who have been promised good news. 2020 hit us with a wallop, but it was the culmination of many decades-long trends and attitudes that amplified the grief and struggle that many experienced. As we anticipate a new year, let us use this year as a chance to reconcile and make new.

I pray that 2021 may be a year of hope and peace for you and yours. I pray that it may be a year of renewal and transformation, both of ourselves and our communities. I pray that as we hopefully move closer to “normal”, God gives us the strength to question what ought to be “normal” in our lives and our institutions. And I pray that we all may grow in faith through the babe we celebrate in our midst, the one who challenges us and consoles us in all our life’s journey. And I pray that in the unknowns ahead, we may lean on God and those God calls to uplift and guide us to better days. Go into this new year, unanticipated and unknown as it might be, with the words of Thomas Merton:

“Trust in God”

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thanks be to God! Amen

Feature Photo by Ben Koorengevel on Unsplash

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