Usually, by the time January rolls around and I start to see discarded Christmas trees lying curbside for the recycle truck, I have completely forgotten the messages I so lovingly and thoughtfully crafted in every Christmas card I sent.
Usually, I say. But not this year.
Sending those warm wishes for the Christmas season was quite easy.
Even when I sat for three days with intermittent power outages during the first ice storm of the season, deemed the most brutal ice storm we have had in forty or fifty years.
Even as I sat fully alert with every rifle-shot cracking of tree limbs from their trunks, and the sound of ice-encased boughs crashing slow-motion through lower limbs, the tinkling rush of ice scattering like splinters of a frozen waterfall, nature magnificently at work in this unexpected pruning of winter-bare trees.
Yes, even with all of this eerie and astonishing beauty and the unpredictable spells of darkness and cold when limbs felled power lines and transformers burst apart in showers of sparks and echoing booms, even with all of this winter storm, I could send warm wishes for the Christmas season.
Words evoking the warmth of a hearth and a steaming mug of wassail, the warmth of family love, the warmth of love of cherished friends, this was the easy part.
But no matter how I wrestled with the words, searching for the phrase that would be large enough and true enough to the task, I could not quite express the honest and necessary and encouraging words of well-wishing for the new year.
I don’t know how else to say it: Many of us seem to yearn for the Savior like we have never yearned before.
“Happy New Year” seems to skip lightly past the calls of massive dismantling of systems that have held together, however imperfectly and incompletely, the web of all living things—from human lives and communities and thoughtful conversations toward the common good, to the broader ecosystems and great web of life that holds us all together.
As those discarded Christmas trees get hauled away and January rolls up its sleeves and gets down to work, what is the wish I most want to impart to family, to loved ones? to the people in my town? in my nation? in my world?
It’s not so much a wish as an assignment, for each of us. The message I would share with others I first must tell myself: No matter how dark the night, nor how fierce the storm, keep your eyes fixed firmly on the One who calls you.
Staying behind in the boat, not rocking the boat but clinging to what has comforted us and made us feel secure in the past, is not the way forward now.
The Gospels, I find, are not merely “interesting” reading. And Jesus’ one-word invitation to Peter—“Come!”—was not simply for him then, and somehow not for us now.
We have spent a year hearing about mercy. Perhaps even doing some works of mercy. That year is over. (“Thank God,” some might say.)
But mercy does not end, thank God. Because, sadly, the need for mercy seems never to end. In fact, the need for mercy seems to grow exponentially by the month, by the week. Sadly, by the day.
“Keep your eyes fixed on the One who calls you,” Jesus says to you, and to me.
He calls us now to walk on the uncertain surface of our times, the surface that seems completely incapable of sustaining us. The frightening, storm-tossed, inky dark surface that threatens to pull us down.
Perhaps my greatest wish now, for you and for me, is the strong arms of Christian community. We have work to do, and the world is waiting for us to wake up, step forth courageously, and get the Gospel invitation right.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on
the nature of God’s calling in our times.