Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Start of a New Year

Dear Friends,

On this clean page of a new year, we can begin by thanking God for making it through another year and to ask God’s blessing on the year about to unfold, with all of its unknowns, and unexpected twists and turns. Sensing our need for affirmation, the designers of today’s readings and prayers have given us first of all, an ancient blessing from the Book of Numbers (6.24-26):

The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

God stands with us at the head of this new year, encouraging us to live fully, faithfully and freely.

Two phrases from today’s Gospel from Luke offer us stepping stones into this unformed year:

Of the shepherds, the Gospel says they understood (Luke 2.17). Our yearlong work is to understand what we are called to be and do, to deepen ourselves as spiritual, loving people – people generous with strangers as well as loved ones. We are invited to understand ourselves as individuals, as family members and parts of a national and global society at a time when uncertainty about our national direction looms large. We are asked to cast around and see who is doing the work of building the reign of God and understand how we can join in to the benefit of our world.

Of Mary, the Gospel says she treasured these things and reflected on them in her heart (Luke 2.19). Our yearlong work is to search out the meaning of our lives – where we are going, what God speaks to us through ordinary voices. Let me give you an example of finding the treasures in the ordinary voices we hear. A friend of mine lost her father on her very birthday some years ago. We were talking about that day recently. How did you get through it, I asked. How does your Dad’s death on your birthday color your birthday each year?  She had a profound answer. A child in the class that she had taught the year before her father’s death had given her a homemade condolence card when he died. The child had written: “How lucky you are to have your Daddy meet God on your birthday. No one else can say this about their Dads.” The words worked for my friend. She has treasured this experience and has held it in her heart.

These three tasks are before us; to understand, to treasure and to reflect. That’s enough to fill the whole year.                                                        

And now, from my congregation to your heart, this blessing for the year stretching out before us:

May the God of Strength be with you and may you be the sacrament of God’s strength to the people whose hands you hold.

May the God of Peace be with you, stilling the heart that hammers with fear and doubt and confusion and helping you sow peace in the world.

May the God of Joy be with you. May you share joy with others, throughout the year.

~ Sister Joan Sobala