The Blessing of a New Year

We get the word January from the Romans, who depicted the god Janus with two heads, one looking forward and one look back. Janus was often depicted around doorways and openings, and was associated with change, time, and transition. At this time of the year, we look forward and back. We take one last look at 2016 and all the tumult it brought, and we look ahead to 2017 and the hope it represents.  

Here at Westminster we have an extra set of new beginnings to add to the New Year’s hope. On January 1, at 3pm, I will be ordained as a Presbyterian minister and installed as the pastor here. This represents quite a moment for me, the culmination of over twenty years of wandering, struggle, and hope for a call to ministry. It is also a new beginning for our congregation, the culmination of a search process and of our hopes to find new ways to do ministry in our community.

But that is not the end of it. On January 8, we will ordain one of our newly elected elders, Cyndi Fevang, to that special role, and begin a new year of work in the session, the form of representative democracy that Presbyterians follow as a way to order our life and work together. And on Jan. 15, the Sunday we will observe the Baptism of the Lord, we will all renew our baptismal vows to renounce evil, trust in God’s gracious mercy, and live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, showing his love in the world.

Those vows, which in some form will be part of all three services, make a good plan for any new year. They represent ideals more lasting than resolutions to exercise or recycle (though we are in favor of both those things!) Living the Jesus way is a process we work toward our whole lives. Sometimes the path is easier; sometimes we see the way ahead and think we understand why some of the path behind us was difficult. It’s easier not to walk that path alone, which is why we gather week in and out to be with other believers who share the same vows and the same struggles.

As we celebrate these significant milestones, and look to the year ahead, our new year’s blessing might be part of the liturgy of the baptism which includes this prayer:

O Lord, uphold us by your Holy Spirit.

Daily increase us in your gifts of grace:

The spirit of wisdom and understanding,

The spirit of counsel and might,

The spirit of knowledge and the awe of the Lord,

The spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever. 


While We Wait

Advent is a season of beginning, of our expectant waiting for the Christ child to appear, born anew into our hearts. What we are celebrating at Christmas is the incarnation, a traditional doctrine which teaches that God took on human flesh and lived as one of us in order to reach out to all people with a message of grace and love. That idea, of God made flesh, is so huge we really can’t take it in all at once. So each Advent, we set aside four weeks to wait and watch and pray and ponder.

Most of us, honestly, aren’t very good at waiting. We value convenience and speed these days. We zap information into the air and it bounces our messages and transactions and cat pictures where we want them to go in mere seconds. We can have our groceries delivered and can deposit checks with our phone. Who knows what will come next that will make life more convenient?

But sometimes that very convenience makes us think we have to be in control, and that faster is better. Sometimes slow things, like planting a seed and watching it grow, are a good antidote to the pace of modern life. Prayer, conversation, acts of compassion are some of the ways we can slow down our lives and stay in touch with our deeper values.

Come join us as we practice waiting. We will light candles, pray, sing, and take our time as we wait for Christ to be born among us, in us, and for us. 

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