You couldn’t sleep past noon on the first morning of 2012 in Chemainus. Chemainus United Church made it impossible.
After proclaiming our faith, re-committing to the age-old sacred covenant with our Creator and celebrating Communion, we left the stable hay and dregs of Christmas strewn across the church floor. On the way out, we rang our church bell. For 15 minutes, it echoed down the sleeping streets of our Little Town.
Our unanimous New Year’s resolution is to ring that bell more often. It was that much fun.
The top of the year always sparkles with hope, renewed conviction and a yearning to turn over a new leaf as fresh as blank calendars on the walls.
The church calls this very human yearning repentance, which includes remorse for past ways. But its deep meaning involves turning our lives around, “coming about” to the Holy Path laid out for our lives. The fabled Navajo prayer calls it “walking in beauty.”
We live a natural human rhythm of feast and fasting, celebration and routine. Sometimes in this century and this country, we kid ourselves that celebrating and feasting are our due. We live beyond our means, beyond what the earth can support, with mania for gadgets and entertainment. Then we naturally need to “fast” to right the balance. So we make resolutions.
One of the most subversive lines we tell ourselves is “I deserve it.” I’m worthwhile; therefore, I deserve to colour my hair. I’ve had a rough week, so I deserve that piece of pie.
In the Christian faith tradition, we are given everything as gift. We do not deserve anything. But we are created for a purpose; many of us spend a lifetime trying to figure out what. The rest is grace offered by the Holy One who made us, unearned by anything we do or fail to do.
The good news of our Christian message is how deeply we are loved by the Holy One, how much God yearns for our well-being, for fulfilling our purpose in life. Once in a while, we see clearly how far we have wandered from this God-given path. And sometimes the depth of that realization is heart-breaking.
Yet into those broken hearts rushes the Holy Spirit of God, with healing and cosmos-wide unconditional love. With forgiveness. All the Spirit wants is that we make a fresh start. To give us the ground for that fresh start, God offers us absolute unconditional overflowing everlasting love, the same love that gave birth to the universe, the same love that undergirds the whole of life and will never fail.
All New Year’s resolutions can begin here.
Whenever we fall off the path — a cookie, a missed day at the gym, a harsh word — we can begin yet again in joy, knowing how treasured we are by the One who made us.
Don’t fret if by mid-January, you’ve dropped your resolutions. Forgive yourself and embrace that amazing grace. Return to the path you need to walk, rooted in gratitude.