This is a New Year. The calendar says so. I note the fact by marking it so when I wish to designate the day and the year as distinguished from some other day and year. It may be that my contract says so. It is indicated clearly in the lease I signed or the agreement I attested. It is curious how much difference can be marked between the two dates — December 31 and January 1.
Yet there are many things that move unchanged, paying no attention to a device like the calendar or arrangements such as contracts or leases. There is the habit pattern of an individual life. Changes in that are not noted by the calendar, even though they may be noted on the calendar. Such changes are noted by events that make for radical shifts in values or the basic rearrangement of purposes. There are desires of the heart or moods of the spirit that may flow continuously for me whatever year the calendar indicates. The lonely heart, the joyful spirit, the churning anxiety may remain unrelieved, though the days come and go without end.
But, for many, this will be a New Year. It may mark the end of relationships of many years’ accumulation. It may mean the first encounter with stark tragedy or radical illness or the first quaffing of the cup of bitterness. It may mean the great discovery of the riches of another human heart and the revelation of the secret beauty of one’s own. It may mean the beginning of a new kind of living because of marriage, of graduation, of one’s first job. It may mean an encounter with God on the lonely road or the hearing of one’s name called by Him, high above the noise and din of the surrounding traffic. And when the call is answered, the life becomes invaded by smiling energies never before released, felt, or experienced. In whatever sense this year is a New Year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and with gratitude.
- Howard Thurman, The Mood of Christmas, 124 (1973).
Thank you for your message the last Sunday of 2017.
John 1: 14 -the Word became flesh and took(takes) up residence among us.
We all experience different rebirths throughout our lives. Tragedy often births something within us. Success can birth something within us. An experience, traveling, love, hopes, opportunities… all these things can bring us to birth something new within our lives that changes us and the direction we live in.
Christmas and New Years creates a kind-of symbolic moment in time for us to be intentional about some of these “rebirths.” Like the ritual of communion, or lent, or advent, the season guides us into a spiritual practice.
It’s no coincidence (in my humble opinion) that we celebrate the birth of Christ, and the birth of a new year, so close together. Not every new year, or new season, is as traumatic or powerful as a birth. But some are. And those moments set our lives forever on a different course.
Nicodemus met with Jesus in the middle of the night to ask him some questions that had the potential to change the way he lived, and what he lived for. He said:
“Master, we know that you are a teacher from God, for no one performs the miracle signs that you do, unless God’s power is with him.”
Jesus answered, “Nicodemus, listen to this eternal truth: You can perceive the kingdom realm of God, but you must first experience a rebirth.”
Nicodemus asked him how and why… and how again. Jesus was gracious and talked with him. And then he said something to Nicodemus, this midnight-man full of questions, on the brink of change, that is probably the most quoted passage from the scriptures:
“For this is how much God loved the world — he gave his uniquely conceived Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
Mary birthed the God/Human gift into the world – BIRTHED him. His humanity was new, but his divinity was re-birthed into the natural world. His (re)birth was a declaration that we too can experience new life right in the middle of this one. We don’t have to begin again to start again. We don’t have “re-enter our Mother’s wombs,” as Nicodemus asked, to be re-born. Spirit can midwife re-birth into our lives at any time. That’s how much God loves us. That’s why he gave his uniquely conceived Son as a grace gift to us, as one of us. So that all who can see, hear, and be aware of the Divine, will know that the little deaths (and the big ones) we experience in our lives don’t have to be the end of us. We can be re-born. We can start again. We can hold the tension of following the Spirit and doing the work. Of letting go of one thing, and becoming, or starter, another.
Grace meets us where we are. In the glorious mess and excitement of it all. And leads us on.
For some, that means lists and goals and plans and vision boards. For others, it’s rest and calm and sleep and gathering strength. But I think for most of us, it’s a mix of the two. The tension of dancing with the pain and joy of birth.
Whatever your ritual is come New Year’s (and perhaps this is your sign to find one), take courage from Nicodemus. Walk through the night, or whatever season it is for you… walk on, ask your questions, make your lists, dream and talk and plan.
And then my friend,
do the work.