Traditionally, many people make resolutions of how they will live at the start of the new year, committing themselves to change some way they have been living. When I think of the word resolution, I think of a firm decision to act & to live differently based on some deep sense of purpose a person has come to, after some life altering event or awareness. When you think of it, what is more life altering then the birth of our Savior? So, the question is, what resolution, what unwavering commitment will we make to our way of living as we step into this new year, that will contribute to preparing the way for God’s promise to be realized & thus live into the healing of all of creation?
The month of January is known as the month of new beginnings. We have all just journeyed through the four weeks of Advent, which in the Christian faith is known as the season of preparation for the fulfillment of the new thing that God is about to do. Following Advent, we stepped immediately into the observance & celebration of Christmas, the fulfillment of God’s promised gift of the birth of “Emmanuel”, God with us. On Christmas Eve, we stepped into Christmas as if through our four weeks of Advent we had arrived to the point of being fully prepared to receive & live into God’s gracious gift of His Son, given for us. And now in this first secular month of the year, we step into a new year as if the former year is past & we were not affected by it & are prepared to live into a new year.
Following the tumultuous year we just experienced with the Covid virus, involving severe illness, suffering, grief & deaths, as well as all the violence & conflict & economic effects related in many cases to effects connected to the virus, I would guess that the vast majority of the people in the world at this time, would be very eager to put the past year behind them & step into a new year. It all sounds so nice & easy, doesn’t it? Prepare ourselves for the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, then celebrate the new thing God is doing in our midst, then leave the last year behind us & start over for another year.
However, the question that comes to mind at the start of the new year, or at the start of any other day for that matter is, are we truly prepared to receive & live into God’s new gift for us & if so, how are we to do that? Living into God’s Holy gift for us does not sound like a simple thing to do. The gift God is about to give us comes to us through the birth of Jesus, God incarnate, who will bring light to the darkened world, & in so doing, fulfill God’s promise to heal this broken world. We read in the Bible that God, speaking through the voice of the prophet Isaiah, says that: “He is about to do a new thing. He will make a way in the wilderness & rivers in the desert”. In other words, things are about to change. People will no longer be lost & suffering & the land will no longer be dry & new life will soon burst forth. Change & the good news that the people have longed for, is coming with the birth of God’s Holy child. The prophet continues to proclaim that God is calling His people to make room in their hearts & minds to receive, live & spread His gift of unconditional, inclusive, undying love & hope throughout the world. Speaking for God, they then call us to get the things in our lives out of the way that interfere with us clearing a pathway in our lives for the Lord’s coming, as they say that we are to “prepare the way for the Lord by making straight in the desert, a highway for our God”.
They don’t exactly tell us how to prepare for the Lord’s coming but they make it clear that as we make a pathway for the Lord’s coming, “Every valley shall be lifted up, & every mountain & hill will be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, & the rough places will be made plain.” In other words, one way or another, the new thing God is about to do will change everything, in our hearts & in the world, for with His gift of Emmanuel, all people will be equal & whole in the eyes of God. The prophets then tell us that, “When the people have prepared these things to be done, the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, & all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord will have spoken”. What a gift & blessing it is to be called to be part of the fulfillment of God’s promise.
~Posted by Rev Kathryn Bindig, MDiv. MS; Pastoral Care Minister with assistance from Rich Muscatello; Director of Business Development & Strategy