Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
A radio talk show I sometimes listen to before falling asleep began its January 2nd program with this opening line:
Predictions for the future aren’t generally worth the paper they are written on, but as we head into 2019 you can say this: it will be a major year because of the trends already set in motion.
The trends that followed are the ones you would predict if you watch, listen, or read the news, no matter your preferred source. Promising a lively discussion on all these topics and more, the host then asked the radio audience:
What are you most concerned about as we enter 2019?
What gives you the greatest hope?
Like many, I’ve just returned from time with our extended family, for us a rare and sweet opportunity to be with those in our closest circles of love and concern. I was acutely aware this time of my place in the life cycle of family and friends, as our parents’ generation grows more frail and some cross over the mysterious border of death and as we anticipate the birth of our first grandchild. A rising cadre of young adults are finding their way in the world, their sights increasingly set beyond what I can see. Several of our family and friends, quite suddenly, are facing the hardest news of life: physical and mental illness, and the untimely death of a child.
As we consider the broader scope of our world and in our lives for the year ahead, there are, indeed, trends already set in motion. There will surely be surprises, those things that require us to change course or completely stop what we thought we were doing to do next.
Yet in the midst of everything–all that was, is and is yet to come–God gives us agency and inspiration to make changes for the better. Through the mysterious power of grace, God helps us accept what we cannot change. Most astonishingly, God’s love and and presence, made known to us in Jesus, is at work in our lives and in this world. “Nothing is impossible with God,” an angel told Mary when she received the startling news that she would bear God’s son. “I am about to do a new thing,” the Lord proclaimed through the prophet Isaiah, “do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)
I cannot urge you enough to make Sunday worship a priority in these first weeks of 2019 (the fourth spiritual practice in the Way of Love ), for in the church’s calendar, we now enter Epiphany, a gentle season of spiritual revelation and encouragement. The first biblical lesson you’ll hear this Sunday begins, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1) The lessons get better each week. The themes of light, hope, and possibility will be food for your soul.
In the Epiphany gospel texts, writes noted author Nora Gallagher, “the singularity of Jesus is revealed, as if it were rising to the surface from underwater. Events bring into focus what has been on the periphery.” Vocation is a primary Epiphany theme: “I see in Jesus,” Gallagher goes on, “his own dawning sense of what God has in store for him and for him alone. If it is true for Jesus, I realize in this season, then it is true for me.”
Like you, I have my share of concerns as we enter 2019. None of us is immune from the struggles and suffering of this world, and increasingly the stakes are high for us as a nation and a species. Yet I am, like you, called by Jesus to live in hope and walk in love. What a gift it is to know that Jesus is Lord, and that our vocation is to draw deep from the wells of his grace and to follow where his star leads.