Grace, peace, and mercy are yours from the Triune God. Amen
Today is a secular holiday, as the church marks the start of its new year with the beginning of Advent. But 2016 has been such a tough year for so many of us, that in this place of faithful Christian community, it feels important to ritualize the passing of 2016 and look with hope into 2017.
The past year has been laden with heavy burdens. Burdens in our world with continuing war and strife all over the globe, with world leaders who seem to care only for their own wants instead of the well-being of their countries. Burdens in our country, with political discourse that has taken leave from common decency and continued tragedies with guns and drugs. Burdens in our city and our neighborhoods with racism and sexism and a lack of affordable housing and healthcare. Burdens in our own lives with concerns of health and grief and mental illness and infertility and wondering if we might ever feel happy or safe again.
Hear these words from Jesus, “Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” And here these words from me, as your pastor, “May you find rest in this worship today. Set down your burdens here, just for this hour, and rest in God’s love.”
It feels exhausting to be human sometimes. To always be trying to make ourselves better. With the start of the new year, some of us are probably making New Year’s Resolutions. I know that I have already registered for a few road races in the New Year and have been logging miles on the treadmill already. The desire to make ourselves into something new feels particularly acute this time of year. With a tough year behind us, the need to make something more of 2017 is real. We want something new.
Hear these words from our reading this morning, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!” Paul is writing these words to the community gathered at Corinth who are struggling to live peacefully with one another. It might have been a time similar to ours. A time in which corrupt power ruled the day, money came before the wellbeing of other people, and people fought with one another. I believe these words are a perfect preparation for the new year.
We are made a new creation not because of anything we do, but because of what God does for us. God creates us anew each day. Being made new is not dependent on having the right new year’s resolution or getting physically fit or eating right, but rather, is because of what God has done for us. Today, set down the burdens of being human and rest. Rest in God’s re-creating of you as a beloved new creation.
In just a few moments we will embark together on 15 minutes of shared silence. There are several stations available for you. There is a station for healing prayer in the choir loft. There is a station available for lighting prayer candles. I invite you to write down your burdens on a piece of dissolving paper and place it into the font, dissolving it in the waters of rebirth. There is also a book of gratitude in the narthex where you can write the things for which you are thankful. You can make a paper crane with your intentions for hope and peace and new creation in the new year. Or you can simply remain in your seat and pray.
Be made new, beloved people of Christ.