Have I mentioned that I’m not a fan of the New Year’s holiday? Really I can take it or leave it. For one thing, it’s a whole lot of hype & fireworks & store sales just to hang up a new calendar. For another, I might be a little resistant to change.
So New Year’s strikes me as a holiday to (1) mourn the past & the unstoppable tide of change, and/or (2) kick & scream in the face of whatever unknown lies ahead.
It’s better if I just go to sleep and don’t bother seeing in the new year.
Still, New Year’s is one of those holidays to which many churches give a liturgical nod, in part because the themes of New Year’s are well-suited to the celebration of Epiphany: new resolutions and new revelations, contemplating goals and contemplating visions, praying for the unknown that lies ahead and praying to the Unknown that is unfolding.
The good news of Epiphany over New Year’s, however, is its focus on God doing a new thing (whilst anything I do is pretty darn predictable…like finishing the Christmas cookies in one sitting under the guise that I’ll start a new diet tomorrow). Seriously, thank God for doing a new thing, because I’m predictable and I don’t like change so it’s a reasonable guess that “new thing” is not my forte.
But here’s the twist — the surprise, the wonder, the realization: when it comes to Epiphany, the new thing that God is doing just might be us. Take another look at Isaiah 60:1-6:
Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. It’s time, let’s go! And not just you … y’all get up. Second person plural (see the preceding Isaiah 59:21). One & all, here we go! God is your light, God’s glory has crowned your head and ignited the synapses between you. It is your time to shine for God’s sake. Get up!
For darkness shall cover the earth like a fog, and dense clouds will hide all people from one another, but the LORD will arise upon you and God’s glory will be over you. Seriously, it’s time! The grace that you know, the passion for justice that you share, the fellowship that binds you: these are needed to bear witness to the dawn!
Lift up your eyes and look around: nations shall come to your light, people will gather together; your sons shall return from their wars and your daughters shall find healing. Do not be shy or fearful. Look and see the light that you have been given to shine together. Live boldly as the very best community that God has called you to be, and watch how others come to join with you in beaming with God’s Spirit.
Then you shall see and be radiant. Your heart shall thrill and rejoice! You will be surprised by the gifts that are shared — brought by sea and by camel — in joyful praise of the LORD. Let grace beget grace, let joy beget joy, let light beget light, to the glory of God!
You — and me, and us, and all people as far as you can imagine with your arms stretched wide — together we are the new thing that God is doing in this world, for the sake of the world. Beloved Community, there is a Spirit upon your head, a word upon your tongue and a light within your core, and this is the new thing that God has given to you to shape your path … the new thing that God has given to the world to bolster its spirits.
While New Year’s resolutions draw us individually inward for personal reflection & self-development, Epiphany’s revelation draws us outward to community for radiating & gathering & radiating some more. Set your individual goals if you will, but make one of them “Shine with others.” Mourn the past if you need to (I do) and scream at the future if it helps (it does), but participate in the bright new thing that God is doing — which is you, second person plural.
CALL TO WORSHIP
One: We are searching for a light to guide us.
All: Arise, shine for our light has come!
One: We are longing for inspiration to motivate us.
All: The glory of the LORD has risen upon us.
One: We are wishing for the world to change.
All: Look around: people are looking for God’s light in us.
One: We are ready to see what God can do!
All: Our hearts rejoice in God’s glory! We join together to shine!