Happy New Year!!! A month late! While we celebrate the start of a new calendar year on January 1, the Church liturgical calendar began a month earlier, with the First Sunday of Advent, which this year was December 1.
The Revised Common Lectionary is a schedule of readings from the Bible for use in Christian worship, making provision for the liturgical year. It runs in three-year cycles. Because the cycle is three years long, only three of the Gospel writers are given a year. John’s Gospel, whose form is very different from the three synoptic gospels, is treated differently and is inserted into all three years.
One of the beauties of celebrating the start of the new lectionary year is that there is a significant difference between the beginning of each lectionary year and how many of us begin the new calendar year. Many of us will make promises, or resolutions, as we begin the new calendar year – resolutions about things we hope to change in our lives. Many of us will fail to keep those resolutions throughout the New Year.
But there’s the powerful, beautiful difference between our New Year resolutions and the start of the new lectionary/liturgical year. The liturgical year begins with Advent – a season that looks forward to the coming of the Christ. We then celebrate the season of Christmas – twelve days which begin on December 25 and end with Epiphany on January 6 – the season when we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ amongst us as he is born as a baby in Bethlehem.
Here’s the beautiful difference – while we most likely will break the promises and resolutions that we make at the beginning of the New Year – God was, is, and always will be faithful to the promise that God makes to us which we celebrate at the beginning of each new liturgical year – that Emmanuel – God with us – has come. As we move into a new calendar year it is my hope and prayer for each of you that you will carry with you the hope and promise that we celebrate in the start of the new liturgical year – that God is and always will be with you throughout the New Year!
I close with this prayer/poem for the New Year written by Ruth C. Duck.
Pastor John Miller
Now that the mad rush is over,
O center of stillness and peace;
now that the needles are falling from the tree,
we thank you that you are still God-with-us.
As we face the year ahead,
help us to accept the difficult parts of our lives;
help us to make the changes we must make;
bring us to new places of openness and love
toward you and the people around us;
help us to overcome the fears which keep us from fullness of life.
As the frigid days of January and February draw near,
help us to keep warm places alive within us,
where in secret the bulbs of springtime tulips are nurtured.
As we face the year ahead, we thank you for one another
and for your grace in Jesus Christ.
Help us individually and as a congregation
to be signs of your compassion,
hope, joy, and unity in this world.
your love in Jesus our Christ. Amen.