Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

By: Kim Long, DRE

Happy New Year! Happy Church New Year! That’s right – it is time to turn the page and prepare anew for another year, another cycle of life and all that God can offer to us.

While many of us are still struggling to find a sense of normalcy in these unusual times, one of the gifts of our Catholic faith is a sense of ritual and tradition. These are important and never more so than today when many of us are casting our eyes all around searching for something which is familiar and comforting. The Advent wreath is one such gift. Many times I have placed it in the center of the dining table with little intentionality, my thoughts focused elsewhere. This year I consider the wreath and its offerings, its direction as it points us to the stable and beyond.

During these early, tender days of our new year, we begin preparations for celebrating the birth of Jesus the Christ.  Evergreens, long thought miraculous just by virtue of their existence, green in the dark and cold of winter, reminding us of eternal life and the candles lighting up that winter darkness. Simple elements combined, offering  a clear path for us.

With four candles, greens, fire, and prayer we light the way into the darkness brought on by the time change, changes in our world, and in ourselves. But we lighten up slowly, one flame at a time so that we grow accustomed to each bit of brightness by degrees. Our goal here is not to be “blinded by the light” rather to be guided and steered by it.  Many themes are given to each of the weeks of Advent. These are the four I have chosen to consider this year.

 

Week One Hope

“‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’” Lamentations 3:24

During a long-ago Advent penance service as I stood in line to confess and lighten my holiday burden I realized, albeit too late to change lanes, that I was about to confess to the then Vicar General of the Diocese! I blurted out my one big terrible sin (along with a few lesser offenses) for I knew that without getting that off my chest and conscience I would likely miss the boat to Bethlehem.  My sin, unrecognized for many years, was giving in to despair. Like you, I know God is real and present, that He loves me. In my human frailty I couldn’t see, I couldn’t recognize hope. Fr. David helped and guided me through that awkward moment and I am still and forever grateful for that. This year I pray that I not only accept God’s gift of hope but that I offer it to others whenever possible.

 

Week Two Preparation

“A voice crying out in the desert-prepare the way of the Lord.” Isaiah 4:3 

In a moment of rebellion, I abandoned the practice of list-making, something I jokingly attribute to “growing up Baptist.” It was years before I retrieved this practice, years of being late, “discombobulated, and frazzled were the ensuing product. I have returned to the practice of listmaking grateful for its wisdom which I now see. While I am still not “Girl Scout” ready at all times in my sixtieth year I am getting there, becoming more prepared. Preparing means to be ready, willing, and able to tackle what comes into your day, week, month, with not only efficiency but with love and graciousness. This week I will consider how I prepare for the Lord, in my family, my job, and in the world, and I will pray to do it with wisdom and a sense of calm.

 

Week Three Joy

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

In the Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis,  we are given an amazingly accurate picture of human frailty. Lewis writes to humanity in the form of letters between uncle and nephew who just happen to be a demon and an apprentice. The older demon is directing the younger through the daily lives, both inner and outer, of the human condition. It served as a real eye-opener and with each reading, I have more of an insight into human weakness and my place in that scenario.

Several former pastors at St. Mary’s would begin Mass with a statement “God is good… all the time and all the time God is good.” This was spoken almost as an antiphon. It served as a reminder, whether we wanted to hear it or not, that in the midst of chaos God is in control. This year, knowing that it doesn’t all depend on me not only gives me a sense of relief but also a sense of joy which is always an appropriate garment with which to clothe ourselves.

This week, we light the pink candle representing the joy that our wait is almost over, that Christmas is just around the corner, and with it the unbridled joy of celebrating the birth of the love of God in the world. I pray that my vision is enlarged and I see joy where I could  not see it before.

 

Week Four Love

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but may have life everlasting…” John 3:16

I have to tell you, friends, this  verse is one of the very first scriptures I memorized as a child. And I must confess that I have not  reflected on it as it is written above in way too long. I am aware of it of course but to examine it, to sit with it, to feel the love of a gift freely given I have not done lately. Often at this time of the year, we are busy buying (or if you are into crafting-and I am- making) gifts for those we love. The most meaningful gifts I have ever received have been those which, when opened, revealed that the giver really knew me. In my life I have been blessed to have opened several such brightly and sometimes poorly wrapped packages. The trappings paled beside the offering. In week four, I shall turn my focus away from the trappings of the season and see the gift.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>