Well, we made it to 2023. Now what?

Every time we turn a new year, it gives us pause to think about the year past and the year ahead. Many people look back at the previous year with a mixture of regret, sadness, and even a little angst about how horrible the year has been. Lots of missed opportunities to make our own lives better, not to mention the lives of others. Losses of friends and loved ones, some to death, some to a parting of the ways; the sadness can be overwhelming. Recollecting the pressures, the economic swings, the vagaries of the political spectrum, even our own financial situation may well up in us a gut-wrenching revulsion that leads to a sigh of relief of the year’s passing.

I might challenge us to look back in a different way. What blessings have come our way? Did we have the chance to make someone’s life brighter and better? Who has come into our life that has brightened our world? When we look back, it would be a great exercise to see if we can recount the many times God has been present and made our lives more loving, more kind, more grace-filled, and more spirit-filled. Yes, previous years can be seen in the light of good riddance, but is that the best way to review them? Might we be filled with gratitude for this past year? God has brought us through to a new year. Even if last year was horrible, God saw us through those darkest of times.

Maybe this last year wasn’t really so bad. I personally had the opportunity to meet a new friend in another part of the world, Moussa’s cousin Idriss. In the midst of his own problems and situation, he took the time to make a place for me in his home and in his heart. He lives in a meager situation, and yet willingly shared all he had with me. That’s a true blessing. In this past year I’ve seen God at work in the life of the community of faith I’m blessed to be a part of. I’ve seen new persons come to be a part of that community, and I’ve seen person’s whose sense of the Divine has been heightened. I’ve seen how generous God has been with our church, and in turn have seen our church be generous with those who we could bless. I’ve gotten opportunities to deepen my connection with my friend Moussa as we plan for him to relocate here. Most recently, I was able to spend time with my dear friend, Tutu, over the Christmas holidays. Moussa stayed longer than me, and I see that as providential. Tutu’s mother passed away on New Year’s Eve. Moussa was there to console and comfort Tutu, and I give God the praise for how God works in our lives.

Has God been good to us in this past year? We should give God all the praise and glory for being so present for us, to us, and in us. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we’re told, “in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

Now that we can put 2022 to rest with our thankfulness to God, what do we do with 2023?

I know, I know, making New Year resolutions is so trite, and do any of us really keep them? Could we possibly look at this new year with a different lens? Could we view the year ahead through the eyes of desire? What do we desire for this new year? Would we like to see people feeling more loved and accepted? Would we want to see less acrimony among those with different perspectives and opinions? Would we like to see this new year filled with generosity? Would we like to be more grateful for what God has done, is doing, and will yet do in the future? How would that desire translate into action?

Maybe we can start with those closest to us. Maybe we can begin loving those closest to us, most especially when they appear unloveable. Maybe we can enter into conversations with those who hold different views from us, not with the intention of changing their views, but with the intention of letting them know we want to hear them. Maybe we can give more of our time, our attention, our abilities, our treasure to those who are in need. Maybe we can start our days recounting our blessings from the day before, and asking God to give us the opportunity to be a blessing in the day ahead.

I can tend to be a bit of a realist, that’s why I generally don’t like to make new year resolutions. I think to myself, am I really going to keep them anyway? I’m thinking if I can keep in the forefront of my mind how good God has been and is to me, I just might be inclined to pass on God’s goodness to others in loving, kind, accepting, generous, and prayerful ways.

Good and gracious God,
Give us all the insight to see the many ways you bless us, protect us, provide for us. In turn, bend our hearts and spirit toward love, kindness, gratefulness, and service. Thank you for the new year of 2023 ahead, let it be the best year ever!

Your fellow traveler on the Way,
Pastor Tom

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