Dear friends in Christ,
While visiting my family after Christmas, I had the joy of worshiping with my parents in their church for the first time since they moved to a new community five years ago. I didn’t realize just how much I’d missed going to church with them until we sat down in the pew! I also didn’t realize just how much I’d missed going to church and just being there as a worshiper for a change.
In the pastor’s sermon for the day, she talked about the incarnation—God being born in human flesh—as God’s way of saying “hello” to the world. I loved this way of thinking about Jesus’ birth. God says “hello” as a way of starting something new, a new conversation with the people of the earth, a new twist in the story of this relationship. God says “hello” and follows it up with “how are you? I really want to know.”
Christmas is an invitation to welcome Christ to be born into our world, our lives, our daily existence. Not just as a guest that you welcome for a short period of time and then get on with life. It means allowing your world to be re-shaped. It means being willing to change for the sake of this newcomer, this interloper.
The season after Epiphany is a period of time when we think about the direction our lives take now that God has been born in human flesh. In worship we’ll hear stories about Jesus coming into his own, making his mark on the world, figuring out his path. It’s actually a perfect season for the New Year, when we are also evaluating our path and asking ourselves how God might be calling us to grow and change in the year ahead. And it’s a perfect time for our annual congregational meeting, when we ask those same questions as St. Peter’s and explore where God might be leading us into the future.
Because even though Christmas is technically past, Christ is still very much incarnate in our world. Even after Jesus has been born, we still need to gather to hear words of love, joy, hope, and peace and then carry them out into the world.
In that church service with my parents, the pastor used a special blessing for the New Year. I share it with you here:
May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrow and pain,
but by strengthening you to bear it as it comes;
not by making your path easy,
but by making you sturdy to travel any path;
not by taking hardships from you,
but by taking fear from your heart;
not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
but by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
not by making your life always pleasant,
but by showing you when people and their causes need you most,
and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.
Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns