A New Year’s Day reading from Luke 2:14-21 (The Voice)
Heavenly Choir: “To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God!
And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!”
As soon as the heavenly messengers disappeared into heaven, the shepherds were buzzing with conversation.
Shepherds: “Let’s rush down to Bethlehem right now! Let’s see what’s happening! Let’s experience what the Lord has told us about!”
So they ran into town, and eventually they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the feeding trough. After they saw the baby, they spread the story of what they had experienced and what had been said to them about this child. Everyone who heard their story couldn’t stop thinking about its meaning. Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart.
The shepherds returned to their flocks, praising God for all they had seen and heard, and they glorified God for the way the experience had unfolded just as the heavenly messenger had predicted.
During the many years I worked on university campuses, I enjoyed the health and hopefulness of being able to say goodbye to one semester and look forward to a new one. Following the seasons of the church such as Advent, Lent, and Easter and reading through the Lectionary with the universal church, have also given structure and community for healthy spiritual rhythms. As we end Advent’s season of waiting in the Spirit for the coming of the Lord, we can start the new calendar year with trust and hope in the salvation that God prepared for all people.
A popular practice to start the New Year is to choose a “Word of the Year” to focus and guide your thoughts and plans. A good example I recently heard was the word “Enough.” With this word, the focus is on the abundance of God and not our own identity or needs. Pair the word “enough” with this breath prayer: “The Lord is my Shepherd. I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1
Often New Year’s Resolutions are self-focused goals, but you might try focusing on an important relationship that needs your attention. My word one year was my husband’s name, and it served as a reminder to love and partner with him well.
In our Luke 2 reading, it seems everyone from the angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph were focusing on the glory and peace of God they experienced in Jesus the Christ come to earth. Mary, of course, had a big role in birthing the Messiah, but maybe even she did not have time to process the surprises, the difficulties, and the wonder of all her experiences of the past year. For it is said of her:
But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart.
Practice. Word of the Year. Allow yourself time to sit, to pray, and then notice, discern, and respond to the prompting of the Spirit for your Word of the Year. This is a practice best done in family or community so you can share, remember, and encourage. With family or children, you can do this as art project by writing your word on a star and hanging it up where you can be reminded of your prayer focus. Be creative and allow whatever you do together to be Happy. Healthy. and Hope-full.
Resources. I shared an awesome resource, The Great Annual Examen, last week and highly recommend going through it even before settling into 2021.
FREE DOWNLOAD The Great Annual Examen from Potter’s Inn Soul Care.
Unhurried Living also did a podcast this week on the Annual Examen that is very helpful and personal. https://www.unhurriedliving.com/blog/podcast155
Here a few of the questions from the podcast:
Where have I sensed the beauty of God over the last year?
How might God be teaching me a longer view of how I measure growth, productivity?
Where have you noticed the generosity of God. Where have you responded or resisted?
The Great Annual Examen is a tool which helps you reflect on all that this past year has brought you in several dimensions: health, relationships, emotions, work, and your life with God. Last year I went through the Annual Examen with a group of soul friends. It was a great way to encourage and reflect with accountability and love. Please don’t be quick to let 2020 go until you do necessary inner work to find forgiveness, freedom, and faith for the new year ahead. If you need a spiritual companion along the way, please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org I would also love knowing your Word for the Year!