Having had a very busy Christmas season, with a celebration of new ministry at the parish tacked on to family visits and capped with the sadness of losing a beloved and valued parishioner, I realize that instead of bracing against the commercial tides of the holiday season I have instead been in a state of blessed, even holy, suspension. We were so busy with regard to events demanding both attention and energy during this Christmastide, it is only just now that I feel like the dust is starting to settle on the season. It is an odd blessing, odd on two levels....
The first blessing is that I have had some quiet moments over the past couple of weeks to reflect on being in a new place with new people while observing some very ancient and old ways of marking Christ's incarnation in our midst. Christmas has come, as it does every year; but this year it has felt like it has lingered a bit. I am still feeling the glow of the celebrations, of the family time, of the sense that things-though tumultuous-are at the same time trending toward the deep peace of God. It all just feels "right," all the sadness and all the joy are wrapped up in a fullness of our assenting that God really is in our midst. Christ is born in Bethlehem God does keep God's promises.
The second blessing is a renewed awareness that God, while keeping God's promises, is also always doing a new thing. At the parish, we have closed a "good" year. The budget year ended in a surplus, and we are looking not only at a balanced budget for the coming year, but also one that includes growth and renewal in our ministries. We are able at this point to return energy and resources to growing the Church. At the same time, even as new resources become available, the demands God brings to our doorstep are increasing. People in need are finding their way to the church, seeking assistance from the resources with which God is blessing us. The second blessing is us being called to answer the demand from God that the life of faith is not just a "thanks for the blessing, God" but also a respiratory engagement with a world in need. What comes to us is what is being called from us...breathing in, breathing out. When we get, we are called on to give.
I have seen this worked out materially and spiritually over and over again this Christmas- and Epiphany-tide.
Even as we celebrate the Christ being made manifest in the person of Jesus over the next seven to eight weeks, I am also aware that God is going to be seeking from us that same manifestation through us as well. It's more than just observing Jesus turning water into wine at Cana in Galilee, or witnessing healings or the calling of disciples...it is being a willing participant in the feeding, healing and calling of the world to life in Christ.