This is a New Year. The calendar says so. I note the fact by marking it so when I wish to designate the day and the year as distinguished from some other day and year. It may be that my contract says so. It is indicated clearly in the lease I signed or the agreement I attested. It is curious how much difference can be marked between the two dates — December 31 and January 1.
Yet there are many things that move unchanged, paying no attention to a device like the calendar or arrangements such as contracts or leases. There is the habit pattern of an individual life. Changes in that are not noted by the calendar, even though they may be noted on the calendar. Such changes are noted by events that make for radical shifts in values or the basic rearrangement of purposes. There are desires of the heart or moods of the spirit that may flow continuously for me whatever year the calendar indicates. The lonely heart, the joyful spirit, the churning anxiety may remain unrelieved, though the days come and go without end.
But, for many, this will be a New Year. It may mark the end of relationships of many years’ accumulation. It may mean the first encounter with stark tragedy or radical illness or the first quaffing of the cup of bitterness. It may mean the great discovery of the riches of another human heart and the revelation of the secret beauty of one’s own. It may mean the beginning of a new kind of living because of marriage, of graduation, of one’s first job. It may mean an encounter with God on the lonely road or the hearing of one’s name called by Him, high above the noise and din of the surrounding traffic. And when the call is answered, the life becomes invaded by smiling energies never before released, felt, or experienced. In whatever sense this year is a New Year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and with gratitude.
– Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart
Today is the 12th Day of Christmas and tonight is 12th Night, the end of Christmastide. Tomorrow is the first day ofEpiphany, a liturgical season during which the Christian tradition has, in theory, stressed God’s radical inclusion, God’s manifestation in Christ, and the revelation of that presence to humanity. The celebrative model in the West has traditionally been the visit of the Three Kings/Magi. Eastern churches focus on Christ’s baptism in the Jordan.
Since New Year’s Eve, I had “Scarlet” by U2 stuck in my head. My wife and I used some iTunes giftcardage to buy October (Deluxe Edition), basically a double release with every album cut and every album cut live. I said the other day on Facebook how much I love “Moment of Surrender” from No Line On the Horizon, and how underrated I think that whole album is. (Very. Soooo, even). Listening to October today, I got really, really moved by “Gloria”. Moved sounds too emotional for what I really mean. Excited might be better…excited to be listening to such great art that celebrates the fundamental hope of Advent, Christmas, and the New Year. It’s so much more like Taize or Bach than like what many of us think about when someone says this or that work is Christian. It’s essentially, classically Christian, but it’s also suprachristian.
I haven’t had much interest in classic liturgy or these seasons until recently, but I’ve been exploring the contemplative, prayer-centered spiritualities of the broader tradition and finding much to celebrate. It seems to me that the best possible response we might have to the classic and at the same time suprachristian themes of Christmas is celebration, not just for the coming of God into history or God’s theophany, but simply for the thought that God is. The traditions are becoming, for me, a way of considering at deeper levels who God is.
Gloria…in te domine
Oh Lord, loosen my lips.
(photo: Valerie Everett via Flickr.)