With one day left in the densely joyous twelve-day season, I want to take a final opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas! I hope you have experienced moments of joy and wonder and beauty in these past few weeks, and I hope your faith was refreshed by the story of God coming among us. As I preached on Christmas Eve, it really is all about love – divine love taking on flesh and making a home among us, and that love’s amazing power to banish fear. As we prepare for Epiphany on Saturday (one more joyous worship event at 5:30!), I hope you feel renewed in your awareness of God’s profound love, and strengthened to love even more in the year ahead.
As we turn the page on a new year, I want to commend to you a set of new year’s resolutions I recently read that is attributed to Pope Francis. Instead of the traditional focus on dropping a few pounds or exercising more often, this set of goals focuses on ways we could more fully manifest love this year. They resonate with me, and I think they may resonate with you, too.
- Don’t gossip. We should focus on how we use our words to build up rather than tear down.
- Finish your meals. Francis denounces how much food we waste, and by extension, how much we share in a “throw away culture.” Focus on taking what you actually need, be it food or any of the stuff we fill our homes with.
- Make time for others. Write more thank you notes. Social media is not a replacement for actual conversation in the presence of others.
- Choose the ‘more humble’ purchase. The more expensive is not always better. The less we spend, the more we are free to give away.
- Meet the poor ‘in the flesh.’ Giving to charity is necessary, but the holiness of encountering and serving the poor is only fully realized when we are actually with them.
- Stop judging others. Focus on reshaping your responses to people who bother you. Put yourself in their shoes, and seek to understand them.
- Befriend those who disagree. This year will inevitably continue the bitter political rhetoric, so we must represent a more understanding and compassionate way of being in relationship with people we disagree with.
- Make commitments. In contrast to the fleeting, temporary nature of so much of our lives, we should focus on making commitments and honoring them. Patience and dedication are marks of holy living.
- Make it a habit to ‘ask the Lord.’ Pray daily. Ask God for guidance and wisdom, whether you’re discerning a major change or simply seeking inspiration for the day.
- Be happy. Faithfulness is not meant to be a slog. Seek joy and share it with others.
Hope to see you this Saturday for Epiphany, or on Sunday as we remember Jesus’ baptism and baptize four new Christians.