January. A New Year. A new website. Once again we have begun the cycle of events through which we re-enact the story of our salvation. We have celebrated the wonder of the birth of the Christ-child. We journey through the season of Epiphany, embracing those moments of sudden and great revelation or realization of who Christ is for us, through to Lent and Easter and Pentecost and back to Advent and Christmas until we have come full circle.
The regularity of this pattern of events provides us with great comfort and stability in an otherwise chaotic and turbulent world. It is always reassuring to know that the light of a new morning will follow the darkness of the night and that it will come with its new opportunities, new hope, new beginnings. This, along with the celebration of the Incarnation, is a reminder that we too are part of the Christmas story – that we are the ones in 2016 and beyond who shall bear witness of how God has entered our world in the person of Christ to offer hope to all.
The cycle of events, however reassuring, carries with it a danger. Of course it is comforting to know what happens next in the Christian story. But the danger is that it can lead us to be complacent and we must never be complacent about the gifts and grace of God. We must never take it for granted. We must be ready to be surprised, to be called out of our comfort zone. After all, the Jews of Jesus’ day did not think the Messiah would be a carpenter’s son from Nazareth. So, too, we must expect God to come to us in unexpected ways.
Just because we hear the same story each year we should not think that everything must always stay the same. The story we hear is, indeed, basically the same one but it always comes to us in a new way with a new emphasis. The church year may seem a bit like a routine to be gone through but we must always be prepared to face new challenges and new opportunities. Again, we must be prepared to face the unexpected and, if so led by God, to rise to meet the challenge. Let us not forget that God sometimes has other plans for us both as individuals and as a community of his people.
During the coming year, as we journey through the familiar story of how God comes to us through Christ, let us always be open to see how God comes to us today and be open to the challenges God calls us to face. Trusting in him may we continue to do his will.