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Sister Doreen’s Reflections

On January 1st these two Feast Days come on the same day and within the twelve days of Christmas, and are a wonderful opportunity for reflection.

January 1st the name of Jesus – God with us:  on a day like this, on a night like this, in a place like this, in a world like this – a world of suffering and hope, of tears and laughter.

January 1st New Year’s day we turn to God with us, and we work to let go of the past and to look to the future, in the gift and grace of God’s presence, God with us, always with us. 

January 1st is celebrated as the Feast of the Naming of Jesus, and is introduced in the Gospel:  “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child, and he was named Jesus.”  This name Yehoshua in Hebrew means God is salvation, God delivers, God rescues.  This child was the incarnation of God; God among us; the God of all Creation. Jesus – God’s salvation – brings not only a name to God but a face as well!  There is joy, there is hope, there is good news, there is celebration all wonderfully expressed in John Newton’s great hymn:

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believers ear.
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds and drives away our fears.
It makes the wounded spirit whole, and calms the troubled breast.
Tis manna to the hungry soul, and to the weary rest.
Dear name! the rock on which I build, my shield and hiding place,
My never-failing treasury, filled with boundless stores of grace.
Jesus, my shepherd, brother, friend, my prophet, priest, and king,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, accept the praise I bring.
Weak is the effort of my heart, and cold my warmest thought;
But when I see thee as thou art, I’ll praise thee as I ought.

We know the joy and the hope, the good news and the celebration in the midst of the realism of our day and our world, in the midst of our human brokenness, and pain, and suffering.

Perhaps this most clearly links the two themes of the Naming of Jesus and the Celebration of New Year’s Day!  For on New Year’s Day we express our hopes for the coming year while giving thanks for the year that is past; and our hopes and thanks are tempered with the same realism, in the midst of our human brokenness, and pain, and suffering.  Our hopes and gratitude arise out of our own personal and communal circumstances, out of and in the midst of all that we know and experience of our world today.

This is wonderfully expressed in a famous poem:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

These words have probably been remembered or used many times these past few days as we look to the dawning of 2023, wondering what the future might hold, and surrounded with all the uncertainty, anxiety and worry of these days. That though, is not the end of the poem, for that tenacious and inclusive, forgiving Love draws us onward and prompts further thought — and the poem continues…..

So heart be still:
What need our little life, our human life to know, if God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife of things both high and low, God hideth His intention.
God knows.  His will is best.
The stretch of years which wind ahead, so dim to our imperfect visions,
Are clear to God.
Our fears are premature; in Him all time hath full provision.
Then rest: until God moves to lift the veil from our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise God’s through around His creatures our mind shall fill.
Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957)

Joyce Rupp writes: “Every day I am offered the tremendous gift of sipping from the mystery of life, tasting the exquisite beauty in what the universe offers me from the vast cup of the cosmos. And in them midst of this beauty, I am also invited to hear the groan of suffering that arises from our bleeding and wounded planet.”

On this day of double celebration – the Naming of Jesus and New Year’s Day, may this strengthen our resolve, enlighten our minds, clarify our wills and inflame our hearts with our love for God and for each other and for all people and all creation.