It feels good to be blogging again. This post is the first one that I have written since the Monday after the 1st Sunday of Advent. Back then, I was reflecting on the heightened sense of anticipation and the overwhelming sense of joy that Christmas brings. Now, I am writing about another beginning: the beginning of 2018.
By now, you probably know why I have not written in almost a month. On the 2nd Sunday of Advent, I woke up, went outside to walk the dog and slipped on black ice in the parking lot of my apartment complex. For the first time in my life, I broke an arm; I crushed my wrist (to be exact).
I had surgery the following Tuesday. Since then, I have been well on my way to a full recovery, and I am deeply appreciative of the extent to which members of the church and the community have surrounded me with love and support since the accident. Thank you for giving me rides, for bringing me food, for making me laugh and for walking that my always feisty, ever lovable Boston terrier.
In the beginning of the sermon that I preached on the 1st Sunday of Advent, I invited the congregation to acknowledge at least one obstacle, one mountain, that stood between them and Christmas. At the end of this sermon, I encouraged the people whom God gathered to worship at St. James that Sunday to believe that, between then and Christmas, they would either scale this mountain or come to enjoy the view.
Common sense suggests that some mountains cannot be scaled (because they are too high for us to climb or we are not equipped to scale them), and that other mountains may not be climbed as quickly as we expect to climb them (because we underestimate the height of the mountain or overestimate the extent of our stamina or strength).
God’s will does not always reflect our wishes and whims. Instead, we are reflections of the God who makes mountains and abides with God’s people in all places, especially God’s people who dwell in deep valleys.
With the start of a new year, hope abounds. Perhaps this year will be better than last year, because we will be more faithful, more disciplined and/or more pleasantly surprised than we were a year ago. The events of the past year remind me: 1) that time is arbitrary (though the science behind it is not) and 2) that, with each year, comes multiple opportunities to begin again.
Lately, I have been wondering: Why doesn’t the year start with warmer weather? Scientifically speaking, a year is the amount of time that it takes the earth to travel around a sun. The language that we use to describe this experience is up to us. Being able to speak a common language helps us to communicate with each other and to plan ahead (and those of you who know me know that I am all about planning ahead, because I adhere to the notion that discernment is not an event but a process).
More importantly, within the framework of the liturgical year, God gives us several chances to formally start over (and, in Jesus Christ, we may start over at any time). For example, the church year begins on the 1st Sunday of Advent. Then, on Baptism of the Lord Sunday, we ordain and install officers to serve the body of Christ through their particular callings at SJPC. On Ash Wednesday, we adopt spiritual disciplines through which the Spirit of God changes our lives, and on Easter, we proclaim the joy of resurrection, through which God’s mercy and grace are poured out on us all.
For me personally, one of the big themes of 2018 was revealed on the 2nd Sunday of Advent. Much of the year will involve continuing to heal from an injury that could have been exponentially worse than it was (and for that, I am grateful). I look forward to physical rehabilitation, because I know that, at the end of the process, I will be stronger than I am now.
I look forward to Easter and all of the excitement and promise that it brings (along with the promise of spring’s warmer weather). Easter is the beginning through which all other beginnings are made possible. Now that I have made this point, I suppose that all that is left for me to say is, “Happy New Year!” Cheers to the next beginning!