Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Let's be honest, human beings have a difficult time not "considering the things of old." We are creatures of habit! Sometimes our habit and traditions become so integrally wound into the fabric of our lives that any type of change becomes a very difficult, and personal, challenge to navigate. For me, holidays always carried the most tradition while growing up. And Christmas Eve just over a week ago included one time-honored tradition I have followed all my life; Norwegian meatballs. That's right; Christmas Eve just wouldn't be the same, in my experience, without Norwegian meatballs. So when my parents, Emily, and I made supper after the 6 pm service there was no question as to what we would make. And they tasted as Christmas Eve should always taste according to family tradition.
But if we hadn't made Norwegian meatballs, would the Nativity of our Lord still have taken place? Of course! Would God still have humbled Himself as a baby born in a lowly manger? Of course! When our traditions cloud our vision of what God is doing in this world, that's when we run into trouble. Just as God appeared in an unexpected way among unexpected people that first Christmas, God continues to be made known to us through unexpected ways today. The Prophet Isaiah spoke these words to the people: "I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" Our challenge is to find a balance between honoring cherished traditions and remaining aware of the new ways God is working among and through us. That's not always an easy thing to do.
People across the world have traditionally viewed the beginning of a new year as a time to dream about and envision a new life, or new direction, or new start. We make resolutions to try to hold ourselves accountable to breaking old habits or forming new traditions. But, we're creatures of habit, so our resolutions don't usually last very long. At the end of the day, change is difficult!
And yet, we proclaim a God who is doing new things each day. Yes, God will always be God. Yes, God's love, grace and forgiveness will always be the same. Yes, God will always meet us in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup. But, nonetheless, God is continually doing new things for us and through us. Belief is the lens through which we train our eyes to perceive what God is up to. Faith is the lens through which we envision our response to God's activity for the sake of others. If our traditions cloud our belief or faith, we are called to test them.
Even in the wilderness God makes a way. Even in the desert God brings the water of life. In the unexpected places, God is present Even in the midst of our own fears or challenges or joys, God is with us. As we begin this new year of life and ministry together let us watch for and recognize God's work among us. Let us hold fast to what is true. Let us be mindful of the things that try to draw us away from God or from loving one another. Let us walk together faithfully as God's called and claimed children.
Happy New Year, and may God bless you to be a blessing to others in 2018,