A New Year’s Blessing

A new year, a chance to begin again.

A new year, a moment of hope.

There is purity and freshness in this new year; you can make it whatever you want it to be.

The old year is gone. You don’t need to worry about it any more. You can unload its baggage here and move into a new year with a fresh face.

It’s a clean slate, a fresh start.

This year, I pray that the weak gain the strength to carry on, the broken know the beauty in their scars, the tired rest in the peace they desire, the lonely find the joy of solitude, and the cold learn the warmth of love.

I hope that hugs are given freely, people dance for joy, strangers smile at one another, kind words are spoken, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, and people share flowers instead of hate.

May you find whatever you’re looking for, learn whatever you’re missing, discover small beauties, enjoy doing good, cherish moments of greatness, and grow more into yourself.

May you love with a love that is more than love (thanks, Edgar).

May you hope with every breath inside you.

Know the joy of a sunrise, a good book, a hot cup of coffee or tea, rain on a roof, thunder storms in spring, an unexpected visitor, a secret smile, a laugh with a friend, or holding someone’s hand.

May this year bring you everything you need and some of what you want with a few laughs sprinkled in for good measure.

May you be surrounded by friends and family who love you.

May you know the love of the Father in new and wonderful ways.

This is my prayer for you this year.

Christmas

It’s a time where we remember a child in an itchy manger in a smelly stable surrounded by noisy animals being visited by complete strangers.

His poor mother, who has just given birth (not the most comfortable of things) probably looks like a mess and feels even worse. And here come a bunch of shepherds who smell like the sheep they tend telling a story of a bunch of angels and so eager for a glimpse of the child.

Graciously, she extends a welcome to them, believing the story that would have had them locked away today, and knowing, deep inside, just how special this child of hers is.

Who knows what Joseph is doing then. I always imagine that he’s proud, like a new father should be, but a little confused because he knows the child isn’t really his – that the child is, in fact, God’s Son. I imagine him being worried about Mary and the baby and a little upset because the only thing he could give her was a stable. I imagine him being a little frazzled and constantly running his hands through his hair and pacing around. I picture him trying to shelter Mary and the child from the shepherds when they first come in with their story, but then accepting them and letting them see and worship.

The story’s usually really cute and sweet, but I imagine it was a little rough around the edges back then. They were probably a little (a lot) stressed out. Mary and Joseph were probably exhausted.

I really don’t believe the Christmas carols that say that Jesus didn’t cry. Babies cry. And scream. And smell funny. And look like strange, mutant lizards.

It probably wasn’t as peaceful as we’d like it to be, but, in that moment, God became fully man and salvation was on its way. That makes it beautiful.

I wonder if Mary knew that.

Fast forward a couple of years to when the wise men show up. They come wearing funny clothes, talking in strange accents, bringing magnificent gifts, and telling an unlikely story about a star and King Herod wanting to know where the child is. Once again, she believes them and understands and welcomes them and lets them worship the Son of  God.

The kinds of people who came to see Jesus after he was born tell a lot about who he would be serving later.

The shepherds were poor. They were social outcasts. They weren’t normally accepted into people’s homes. They kept to themselves and did their own thing.

The wise men were Gentiles. In fact, they came from the East, where most of Israel’s enemies had come from throughout the years. They were pagans and, to the Jews, salvation for them was unattainable.

These were the people the Jesus was going to open doors for. These were the people he was going to bring the light of salvation to. These were the people he died for. He came for the poor, the outcast, the pagan, the Gentile, the rich, and the enemies of God. Jesus was God’s gift to the world. The whole world. No exceptions. He was the gift for all of us.

Christmas is a time to remember the child, the manger, the hope, and the gift. We should be humbled and so extremely thankful.

The Leaves Are Changing Color

It smells so good outside. It smells like autumn. It’s the smell of rain and earth and colors and happy.

It’s been raining a lot which brings out the sweaters and sweatshirts and colorful umbrellas and bright rain boots. Every now and then, if you look really close, you’ll see someone splashing in a puddle or sharing an umbrella. It’s funny to watch guys use the unexpected cold breezes to hold their girls close. Coffee is becoming an essential part of everyone’s diet. Though, that could also be the upcoming midterms.

The field behind my house is a riot of color right now. For some reason, all these random flowers suddenly decided to start blooming. There are two different kinds of purple ones, a bunch of little white ones, a few vibrant red ones, and a bright blue kind. Don’t they know it’s getting cold? Flowers aren’t supposed to bloom in the Fall. But, then again, maybe they are. I’ve never claimed to be a flower person.

Soon, the leaves are going to start changing. That’s my favorite part. It’s like the palette of the world become so much more vibrant and diverse. It makes me feel like the world is a bit warmer, even though it’s getting colder. I know the bright colors are because the leaves are dying, but it makes me think the leaves are saying, “We know we have to go soon – it’s inevitable – but we’re going to make the world a brighter, cheerier place on our way out. We will be remembered. We won’t go away quietly. We’ll leave our mark.”

I want to be like those leaves. I know my time here is short, but I want to leave loudly. I want to make an impression. I want to leave color and joy behind me, wherever I go. I want to make my mark on the memories of the people I come in contact with. I want to be remembered.

And then, like those leaves, I’ll burn out. I’ll fall off the tree. It won’t be the cold, hard ground waiting for me, though. I’ll fall straight into my Father’s arms, and there won’t be anymore winter for me. It’ll be the eternal sunshine of God’s grace and mercy and, above all, love. That’s ending well.