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Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2016 have passed!
However, I am still deciding how to best use my Christmas presents; I am still cleaning from the Christmas celebrations; and I am still preparing for my trip back home. Life continues at high speed, and in a few days the new year will start.
While reflecting on these three actions (deciding, cleaning, preparing), I started to see them beyond the immediate and as appropriate metaphors for 2017. Now that Jesus is born, what is next? What do I need to decide, clean, and prepare?
The narrative of Jesus’ incarnation, according to the Gospel of John, presents a good frame for these actions:
“In the beginning was the Word. … In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. … And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory … full of grace and truth. … From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:1-16).
Deciding, cleaning, preparing … Life, light, grace, and truth.
I do not know about you, but for me normally the New Year brings a strong sense of freshness and an opportunity for change and transformation. Perhaps I experience these feelings in a special way because for me the New Year represents a double beginning: the start of the calendar year as well as a new year in my life. Yes, I was born on January 1. I am a New Year baby!
Thus, as I contemplate these new beginnings in light of Jesus’ birth and the life, light, grace, and truth that he brings into the world, here are some things that I am considering:
Deciding … Life, light, grace, and truth
As Christians, we receive so many mixed messages. We have heard time and again that Jesus is the reason for the season; that Jesus is the real gift that God has given us. However, during Christmas, and most likely the rest of the year, we get distracted with so many things that move us away from Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.
And we search. We search for meaning and fulfillment in the wrong places (money, power, possessions, careers, and relationships). Augustine, the great theologian, wisely warned us long ago that we were made for God, and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in God (Confessions).
If true meaning and rest are found in God, what decisions should I make in 2017 to bring me closer to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? What decisions will move me closer to experience the life and light that Jesus brought to humankind?
As I ponder and contemplate with hope the beginning of a new year, I ask: What do I have to clean/change in order to move forward?
Cleaning … Life, light, grace, and truth
Cleaning is hard! There is always a chore or new cleaning task that requires my attention either in my house or in my office. It may be a pile of papers, a dirty pot, laundry, or my overflowing email account.
Even though physical, external cleaning may seem tough, what about the challenging cleaning that I may need to do internally? Is it an unhealthy habit that I need to break in relation to my spiritual, financial, physical, or emotional life? Is it an old pattern of relating that I need to modify in order to enjoy more fully the gifts of life and light that Jesus brought into the world? What about some practices that I may need to replace to nurture a closer relationship with God?
In order to do this internal cleaning, I may first need the gift of truth. I need to be honest with myself and accept that there are things in my life that may need change and improvement. Once I recognize them, perhaps I will need the gift of grace. Why did I do this or that for so long? Why did I not change before? I will need grace in order to attempt to see myself with the same mercy that God sees me. I may need to extend to myself the same grace that I extend to others.
Preparing … Life, light, grace, and truth
Jesus is born and the New Year is coming regardless if we are prepared for them or not. New life and new beginnings are knocking at our doors. Will we embrace them?
If cleaning implies getting rid of the old, unhealthy stuff in our lives, preparing means getting ready for better things. However, this does not happen automatically.
New, healthier beginnings require intentional preparation and planning. They involve some hopeful dreaming, too: a purposeful envisioning of something different, new, fresh, where life, light, grace, and truth are present.
Through Jesus’ incarnation, God has moved closer to humanity and has brought the possibility of new light and life in all of the areas of our existence. The possibility is there, but we need to embrace it and do our part to actualize it.
What is one change/improvement that you long to achieve? Where do you need a new beginning?
As I was finishing up this column, my computer froze and the screen kept reading “not responding.” How symbolic, I thought.
Through Jesus’ incarnation, God has already responded to humans’ deepest longings and desires of connecting with the Divine and each other, and as a consequence, experiencing a more abundant life. With God, the response is always positive and the possibilities are always present.
The question for us is: will we respond back to God? May it be so!
Happy and blessed New Year 2017! (And a Happy Birthday for me, too!)