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New Years 2024

As we look back on 2023 and the turbulent times we have lived through weather-wise with fires, excessive heat, drought and floods, the continuing horrors of war, homelessness, food insecurity and unrest, we also have the opportunity to reflect not only on these things but also on all the blessings that have been a part of our lives.

I can’t help but think of Julian of Norwich, a favorite saint of mine whose own words ring out loud and clear: “All will be well, all will be well, and every kind of thing shall be well.” She lived in a world and a church like ours that was shifting constantly in the midst of so much tension and unrest and many unknowns. Her gift to me was that She was comfortable with ambiguity, with apparent contradictions, with paradox. Her life was secure with hope and trust in a God whose compassionate love was always available. She gave us a very precious example in her showing us a tiny hazelnut – and it was so small it might be forgotten or overlooked, but “In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God keeps it.” In this simple statement lies the truth of our own lives, lives like hers that are lived out in the midst of both the darkness of sin, pain and struggle as well as the joys of knowing the God is in the midst of both the darkness and the light with us.

Karen Archibald in an article in The Highway, the Diocese of Kootenay October newspaper wrote: “God’s mercy and love and grace are given to us in every single moment, even when we don’t see them or feel them or trust that all will actually be well. God showed Julian that what is impossible to us in not impossible to God. when we trust that “All Will Be Well” we are trusting God as the ground of our being and the basis for our earnest seeking. With God as the founder of our seeking and the ground of our being, how can ‘all’ be anything but exceedingly well?”

So, with these thoughts in mind, you and I can approach a New Year with hope, confidence and a determination to do good. A new year is a clean sheet, a new beginning, a time when the previously thought impossible might just turn out to be a little more possible. We have the opportunity, the chance, to begin again as the New Year dawns. We can focus on gratitude, forgiveness, beginning again and positivity. At the same time, this New Year can bring up feelings of hope, wonder, pride – and guilt, regret, and disappointment. This cocktail of emotions is normal – but how are we to make sure we learn from all of these feelings, so we can prepare for a new and improved New Year?

To set ourselves up for the best possible year to come, perhaps for most of us, we probably determine to concentrate more on feelings of excitement and joy, and less on sadness and regret. To create that for ourselves, we must home in on the highs and lows, so we can direct our year, instead of just having it direct us.
All of this means – it’s a wonderful time of year to reflect. To ask ourselves questions: What fresh intentions, activities, habits, and ideas do I have for myself in the New Year? And what worn-out pieces of my life do I need to let go of in order to create the space and energy for something new? The New Year is a great time to release unhelpful patterns, habits, hobbies, and relationships in our life, and replace them with something better.
I share two hymns with you written to celebrate the New Year:
The God of All Eternity (hymn by John Bell, Iona Community)
The God of all eternity, unbounded by space yet always near,
Is present where God’s people meet to celebrate the coming year.

What shall we offer God today – our dreams of what we cannot see,
Or, with eyes fastened to the past, our dread of what is yet to be?

God does not share our doubts and fears, nor shrinks from the unknown or strange:
The one who fashioned heaven and earth makes all things new and ushers change.

Let faith or fortune rise or fall, let dreams and dread both have their day;
Those whom God loves walk unafraid with Christ their guide and Christ their way.

God grant that we, in this new year, may show the world the Kingdom’s face,
And let our work and worship thrive as signs of hope and means of grace.

As Powers of Good (hymn by Dietrich Bonhoffer and Alan Gaunt)
As powers of good so wonderfully hide us, we face the future boldly, come what may;
At down or dusk our God is still beside us, to whom we trust, completely, each new day.

Yet still old torments cause us consternation; through days of fear and grief we have despaired.
O, give our tormented souls, Lord, your salvation: the healing you have promised and prepared.

Then offer us, the cup of desolation, brimful of bitterness, and we will stand
And drink with thanks, in spite of trepidation, from such a dearly loved and gracious hand.

Yet should you bring us back to share the gladness of this bright world, your sunshine breaking through
We would remember times of pain and sadness and offer up the whole of life to you.

May you enter New Year 2024 “with hope and trust in a God whose compassionate love is always available for us, even as tiny and complete as an acorn (hazelnut)” Karen Archibald.