Happy New Year! I pray this letter finds you all: peaceful, hopeful (as well as rested) after such a rich Advent and Christmas season. I want to thank all of you for every effort brought forth to make this season so rich and meaningful.
HOPE was our worship theme for December. Tied very closely to that theme is “New Beginnings”, our theme for January.
Historically, a new year invites us to a fresh start, turning over a new leaf, creating new resolutions and dropping bad habits. Yet, in recent years I’ve heard more and more people say that they no longer create New Year’s resolutions because it’s futile. In part they’re probably right. I’m sure gym membership statistics can confirm the high percentage of people who join a gym or a weight loss plan in January and then ultimately stop using the membership by early March, or earlier, especially in the coldest and snowiest months of the year.
I wonder if there isn’t another way. Actually, (spoiler alert), there is another way.
The first Sunday in January this year aligns with Epiphany, when the Three Kings (wise men) go to see the newborn King. In itself, it’s a treasured story for children and adults alike, but hidden in plain sight is a clue about New Beginnings.
The reason WHY the Three Kings go to see baby Jesus is because of God’s activity precedes their trip. They see (NOTICE) a star, (His star) rising in the East, they DISCERN what this might mean and then they travel. Not the other way around. They don’t call upon their own will to do something new, hoping for a better, different outcome. First there’s a sign, that signifies an event; a new beginning.
Imagine if that’s how we started the new year. Paying attention in our lives for God’s activity inviting us to watch and see God doing a new thing. Isaiah 43 is one of many texts that helps us see and trust God’s activity. “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
The latter part might sound a little harsh: “do you not perceive it?”, except that Isaiah goes on to prophesy that God will “make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Whether literally or figuratively, and we can use both, these are helpful promises.
It means that God is still active in our lives. It means we do not have to muster all the strength, courage and discipline to make important changes by ourselves, because God goes before us. But it DOES invite us to WATCH, NOTICE and DISCERN what God is doing so that we can have the full benefit of what God has just done in bringing LOVE down to earth.
Watching for NEW BEGINNINGS with you,