For my first blog of 2017 I'm linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor's almost weekly Three Word Wednesday; as usual I'm writing to her prompt – a predictable and create-able Happy New Year! I always enjoy this opportunity because in Kristin's words, "Three Word Wednesday is a chance to pause and hear God. Sum up what you're hearing in three words and then share the rest of the story. How's your new year going? Do you have any resolutions or insights?"
At least a half-dozen times I've mentioned the four annual new beginnings I celebrate. In order of importance...
1. My birthday—I'm cool when people remember it, equally okay if they don't.
2. Secular calendar new year: occasionally I've gone to party, church, or restaurant on New Year's Eve, but don't care about being awake when the ball drops. However, I enjoy anticipating new calendar pages to fill, good reasons to do things a little differently. Then there's reality of more minutes, more hours of daylight that happen with the new year! This afternoon I made my first mall visit of 2017. Nice to see many nativity decorations still in place, as the twelfth day of Christmas doesn't happen until Friday. Predictably marked-down prices on fall and winter clothes and household gear, but stacks of long-sleeved shirts in symbolic spring pastels of blue, green, peach, lavender, orchid (one line of tops had two different versions of light purple), yellow, pink, etc. energized me!
3. Every twelve months the church begins a new year of grace on the first Sunday of Advent—more than a month earlier than the world surrounding the church welcomes another year. Each Advent we begin reading from a different synoptic gospel in the Revised Common Lectionary rotation; texts for the first Sunday of Advent always include a splash of apocalyptic, signaling the end of the world as we've known it. Scripture readings, colors, symbols, and songs all come together to help create a sense that something already new is here and now, something even more amazing on the way. Watch. Look. Listen. Hope!
4. The New School Year's always been my big one, chock full with symbol, ritual, liturgical action, speech—talk about holy time! With more than a suggestion of holy space and place. Major action starts even before the very late August date or Labor Day week when classrooms re-open: buying or setting aside clothes; new haircut (new hair style?). Notebooks, binders, backpacks, and pens. Figuring out transportation—school bus; city bus; commuter train; walking if you're really lucky; on- or off-campus parking. Do you need a sticker or other permit? Will this be a new to me school or an old one? Excited plans to reunite with old classmates or anxiety about meeting new ones? Housing? Probably with family of origin or close relatives if you're 12th grade or under. Otherwise, on- of off-campus? In addition, did all the classes you wanted "take" when you registered at the end of spring semester or do you need to wade through a marathon drop-add-change event?
Other religions, countries, and cultures feature new beginnings, as well. Typically I note those only in passing, but wouldn't it be a fun project to celebrate more of them with traditional food and related festivities?
But Kristin asked how this new year 2017 is going so far. Aside from needing to move as soon as possible for practical reasons and because of health concerns... did I really say that out loud in public? Yes.
Post title is "Happy New Year." Not joyous new beginnings, not joy-filled January. Scriptures and sages and our own experiences all own that abiding joy is evidence of God's presence. Happiness is more mundane, something lesser-than, more earthbound, yet that ultra-frequent "blessed" word in scripture translates to happy in English, selig in German. The psalter opens with...
1Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,Not only Psalm 1, but many many passages in scripture promise if we delight in the commandments, if we obey, if we keep covenant, happiness will be ours. Do I have resolutions or insights for this new calendar year 2017? To keep more faithful covenant with God and with all creation. To claim this as a happy new year for the remainder of January and for the next twelve months!
or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.