The Second Sunday after Christmas Day
The Second Sunday after Christmas Day E. Bevan Stanley
January 2, 2022
In the Name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen.
Happy New Year! Hear the words of the Right Reverend Steven Charleston: Happy Old Year! Since I don’t have a clue about what will be, I like to celebrate what has been. Thank you, God, for all the blessings of this past year, great and small. Thank you for the grace that got me through the hard times. Thank you for forgiving me for all the mistakes I made. Thank you for helping my family and friends, for your healing presence when we needed it most. Thank you for being alive and at work in the world. For watching over the poor. For saving lives. For the chance for peace. Thank you for a year of love past and a year of hope to come. May the good follow me forward and the bad fall far behind. Thank you.
This was a Facebook post for December 29 published in Hope as Old as Fire. Steven Charleston is bishop in the Episcopal church and a member of the Choctaw nation. He has served in communities of Native Americans, as the bishop of Alaska, the chaplain at Trinity College, Hartford and professor in three seminaries. He is known as advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples, for spiritual renewal and reconciliation and for environmental justice. He has led retreats for the clergy of this diocese and spoken at our convention.
January is named for the Roman god, Janus, who has two faces. One looks back to the past and the other looks forward to the future. At this time of year we all do that. There are many shows on television that review the last year. They often include sections called “In Memoriam” when we remember those notables who have died in the last year. We also look forward with hope to the next year. Some of us make New Years resolutions to try to live better in one way or another. We make a renewed effort to eat better or to exercise more. We are going to spend more time reading or in prayer. We will try to pay more attention to the world around us and to the people we encounter. We will deal with that pile of paper on our desk or the dining room table. We really will make that doctor’s appointment or get our teeth cleaned. And so on.
In the reading from the Gospel of Luke, we hear a story that appears none of the other Gospels. Jesus is now a boy and, during a visit to Jerusalem, he gets involved in theological discussions with the teachers in the Temple. He seems to be a prodigy at this kind of discourse. The story ends with the comment: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” The story illustrates how the boy Jesus show promise.
Alinda and I just spent the last week in Minneapolis visiting our grandson. Since he is two and half, that included seeing our daughter and son-in-law as well. It was a delightful time. The grandson is full of energy, has a sunny disposition and is very easy to be with. He, too, is showing promise.
We are always looking backward and forward. We can choose how we see the past and the future. Looking back we can remember the pain of our mistakes or the damage inflicted on us by others. Or we can remember the gifts we have received from God and our neighbors. We can see how even the hardships helped us grow and learn. We can learn from the past. Looking forward, we can focus on the threats or dangers we face or simply the uncertainty of a changing world. Or we can see the opportunities we have to love better, serve more, and learn more. We can see the future as a morass to get through or an adventure to embrace. We can see challenges we face as opportunities to practice the lessons we have learned from the past or to try on new ways of dealing with them. Amanda Gorman posted a New Years poem. In the last section, she writes:
We heed this old spirit,
In a new day’s lyric,
In our hearts, we hear it:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
Be bold, sang Time this year,
Be bold, sang Time,
For when you honor yesterday,
Tomorrow ye will find.
Know what we’ve fought
Need not be forgot nor for none.
It defines us, binds us as one,
Come over, join this day just begun.
For wherever we come together,
We will forever overcome.
Bishop Charleston is man whose people have been treated very badly for centuries. He has served among other nations of native peoples. He is intimately familiar with the oppression and poverty, discrimination and injustice. Nevertheless, he is a man of hope and joy and compassion. How? Because of what he chooses to focus on. Listen again to how he looks back and how looks forward: Happy Old Year! Since I don’t have a clue about what will be, I like to celebrate what has been. Thank you, God, for all the blessings of this past year, great and small. Thank you for the grace that got me through the hard times. Thank you for forgiving me for all the mistakes I made. Thank you for helping my family and friends, for your healing presence when we needed it most. Thank you for being alive and at work in the world. For watching over the poor. For saving lives. For the chance for peace. Thank you for a year of love past and a year of hope to come. May the good follow me forward and the bad fall far behind. Thank you.