From the Preacherman….
January 2021 brings with it hopes for a different, better, healthier
new year. Many people made resolutions to ring in the year. They decided
to take up exercising or give up after-dinner snacks. Some have made the
commitment to pray and read the Bible daily, or at least more regularly
than last year. The list of items for self-improvement is seemingly endless,
as varied as people and our peculiarities.
I have heard them all in my day and made many of the same
resolutions myself, with varying degrees of success. There is nothing
wrong with any of it. However, January has come to mean something very
different for me as a pastor. Like many of you, I am busier than normal
from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Even with Covid there were
more things to do, more people to see, more family gatherings, more
events, more worship services, than at any other time of the year.
So when January arrives we are simply exhausted, worn out mentally,
emotionally and physically. The weather is usually nasty, and this year we
get the added joy of even more divisive politics and an increasingly
virulent coronavirus. Wonderful. Oh, and the bills come due, from credit
cards and stores and Amazon. The bad news argues incessantly with our
resolutions until the resolutions finally run away and hide.
I learned very early in my time as a pastor that what people needed in
January every year was not more of anything. What we all need is
space, permission to take time for the pain. The blur and busyness of the
holidays holds each of us to an impossible standard of rectitude, a
standard none of us can or should ever try to meet. We aim every year for
perfection that is seemingly within our grasp, but always just out of reach.
We miss the good as we strain for the perfect. January is, therefore, full of
all the emptiness, failure and frustration we built up over the holidays.
And it is depressing, in a quiet, disheartening kind of way.
Thus, I remind you: remember your story, the story of God drawing
near in Bethlehem of Judea, drawing near enough for the pain of this
fragile, human existence, near enough to hear our first breath as well as
our last. The God who drew near at Christmas is ever near in this new year
as well. Unburden yourselves to this God who has drawn near in human
form. Take time for the pain. It is the best gift we have been given.