December 01, 2021
Once a year the church is a step ahead of secular culture: for Christians the first Sunday of the Advent Season is NewYear’s Day, a full month before we turn our physical calendar.
The Christian new year provides rituals to help us prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ. Just as society at large emphasizes a fresh start at the turn of the year, so our spiritual tradition encourages us to spend time in personal reflection, to recognize our need for a new beginning, a new birth of peace, joy, and love in our lives and the world.
This year, I am more aware than ever of the need for renewal. Perhaps you join me in hoping that the next year will feel like a new year and not just more of the same. Advent is filled with sung prayers of our longing and anticipation. We pray, “O come, O come Emmanuel….” We sing the poetic prayer of Charles Wesley:
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
These words capture a deep human desire for all we are promised as we enter a new year — liberation, consolation, and joy, gifts needed more than ever in a world so bruised and weary and depleted of hope. The promise of those gifts does not depend on our feeling their presence in the weeks to come. The Christ draws near to us, invites us tenderly to hold the promise, to hold on to the One whose love never lets us go, to hold on until we are able to receive what is offered.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of God’s heaven.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee…
Thanks be to God.
Happy New Year!