Happy New Year!
November 30, 2017, 9:58 AM

The Church’s “New Year” begins this Sunday, December 3, with the First Sunday of Advent.  Ironic, that:  Whereas the world is already deep into Christmas, and the new year is still five weeks away; the Church is already into the new year, but Christmas is still four weeks away!  Nothing contrarian about us at all, is there?

But that’s the way of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus brings us – and Isaiah makes the same point: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9.)

Advent offers us a chance to step back and look at the big picture of God’s plan of salvation for all people.  Advent offers us the opportunity to ruminate and reflect, to ponder, and to learn again what it means to wait for the truth to be revealed.

Usually by the time we all arrive at Christmas, we are quite sick of “Christmas” as the world presents it – with the commercial focus on buy-buy-buy, how to have the perfect Christmas dinner or the most beautifully decorated home or just the right gift for that special someone. The Hallmark channel is playing all the latest Christmas romance movies already. The whole modern-day mythology of Christmas is a presentation of an ideal that most of us will struggle to meet; and many of us regard with fear and trembling (and not the good sort of fear and trembling).

Don’t be misled into thinking that Christmas is about things or that Christmas will magically solve all our problems, find us a new partner, or make us supremely happy.  No human ritual can; no human mythology can do these things. 

And that’s okay, because that’s just the way of things.

So what can make us joyful? 

First, there is the anticipation of joy to come.  When I was a child, the fact that every few days another package with my name on it, wrapped in pretty paper, appeared under our family Christmas tree filled me with an almost unbearable tension of desire and hope. 

I’m older now, and presents under the tree are pretty much a thing of the past, but the feeling of desire and hope, and the tension between them, remains a vital part of my life.  Only now, instead of a new toy, I yearn for something less tangible: a reason to hold on, a reason to hope, a reason to sing, a reason to rejoice.  In short, I yearn for the grace and mercy of being able to love and be loved: the grace and mercy that are sourced in God alone.  I pray you find them, too!

Blessings to you all!  ~ Evelyn+