“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.” -T.S. Eliot
If anyone knows me well, they’d know that January 2 begins the long stretch of my least favorite time of year – until spring hits. The holiday season is over: decorations stripped from their respective spaces on walls and shelves in our homes, Christmas music replaced by Top 40 radio stations, the warm feeling of the coming Christ seemingly dissipated after His arrival, and the celebrations of Hogmanay already forgotten as we return to work and school.
There is one little part of the Christmas season that is all too often forgotten, though, and I was recently reminded at my last meeting with our supervisor in Belfast. If you took your Christmas decorations down the day after New Years, you might need to re-visit the importance of this part of the story.
January 6 marks Epiphany, or the 12th day of Christmas, when the wise visit the new king. Now, this part of the Christmas story is pretty familiar to us, because we’ll never forget those weird words “Frankincense” and “Myrrh” that we remember hearing as little kids – a central part to the first-ever Christmas gifts. But the important part, the bit we don’t usually remember, is hearing that the wise men leave Jesus to return home by another route. They leave changed. These men, from the east (probably what is now Iraq, Iran, Yemen or Saudi Arabia) travelled far to an unknown land, to search for something they had found in the stars. They were unsure who exactly they would find, but they had faith that this star would lead them to something important. And when they found Him, they were warned that going home the same way would lead to danger; They left Jesus differently than they had arrived at Him.
What I love about re-visiting this story is learning how our faith is always becoming new, being shaped and molded throughout our lives. We can hear a story over and over again, but sometimes we are too focused on one little detail, that we miss another little detail altogether. We are so focused on getting the cookies baked, the presents bought and the carols rehearsed at Christmas time, that we forget about the actual story all together, let alone the days following Jesus’ birth.
Having spent these past few months volunteering in Belfast, I know that I, like the wise men, will leave by a different route to my home destination. I know that this new year for me represents a change of attitude about God’s sense of humor when it comes to the future, a new outlook on the massive span of God’s love for all of His people (Thanks Rob Bell, Anne Lamott and C.S. Lewis), and an ever-continuous adventure discovering God in the mundane, the ordinary, the simple, and the hidden corners of the universe. Maybe, just maybe, Epiphany has become my favorite part of the year: a reminder that we are being made new every single day.
My 2015 Bucket-List of resolutions looked a bit like this: 2015 Resolutions
While some of these things were achievable in the year itself, most were simply life-long aspirations that’ve been added to my daily thoughts. 2015 was a good year – and was ended at a fancy party in Belfast with some lifelong friends – but was full of mistakes that I found myself discouraged by or ashamed of, instead of excited to turn those downfalls into positive life lessons.
For 2016, instead of writing a list that I can cross out as the time passes, I’m praying that, above all else, I will make mistakes. Making mistakes means we are trying new things, learning new things, pushing ourselves, changing ourselves, changing others and living life on the outskirts of comfort. Mistakes remind us that we are human. Mistakes show us that we are doing something, making moves, trial-and-erroring, instead of waiting for things to happen to us.
I hope to do things that I’m scared of, and won’t grow anxious or worry about all of the mistakes I’m going to make as I continue to seek my life’s purpose. I pray to let go of perfection and let the beautiful mess be. It’s in our vulnerability that we let God make us new. Let the mistakes roll!
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”