Of course, holiday celebrations - be they sacred or secular in nature - are welcome activities in the winter season or at any time of the year. We all need a change of pace, and there's nothing like family gatherings, special dishes at hearty meals, and the beauty and fun of holiday decorations. Of course, gift-giving is such a warm opportunity to express love and care that we often take much joy in finding "just the right one" for each person. What lovely ways to celebrate!
At church, we move deliberately through the season of Advent, awaiting the birth of the Christ Child with joy and hope in our hearts. Jesus, the greatest gift ever given, is truly the gift that keeps on giving. His life and ministry on earth is rich with grace, and we learn about God's immense love for us in every verse that follows him through those 33 years - and beyond.
So, it is with the hope of Christ we open a new year. Truly, January 01 is just another day; it's not magical, and we bring with us learning from the year past, along with perhaps some unresolved concerns. Still, there's something special about beginnings, whatever their form, and a new year does offer us much in the way of opportunity. I am here reminded of a verse from scripture that has always brought me comfort, no matter the trial. Written after the devastation of Jerusalem, this book is a collection of poetic laments. Most Biblical scholars attribute the book to the Prophet Jeremiah, and his inclusion of this glorious notation of the hope that is faith - in the midst of pain, anger, fear, and bitterness - speaks to the magnitude of God's love in very clear language that uplifts the spirit and refreshes the soul (Lamentations 3:22-25):
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!*
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
As we open this new year ahead, let us see it for what it truly is: another day, another opportunity to open ourselves more deeply and truly to the neverending love of a merciful God. May we be blessed in thought, word, and action...and may we be a blessing.