Happy New Year! How many “New Years” have you acknowledged in the last 12 months?
Did your year start on January 1, according to the Julian calendar still in use? The Julian calendar was given to the world in Rome in 46 BC. Did your year begin when the first seed catalogue comes in the mail? Did it begin at the beginning of September, when the school year begins? Did it begin with the first snow fall, and the promise of snowboarding?
For First Nations people, a new year begins when the large animals begin to rut. New life has begun, even though it is hidden in their bodies. Crops have been harvested, and new plant life is hidden in seed buried in the ground. This season of new beginning flows into a season of rest. As the earth rests, so do people. Winter is a time for listening to the stories and wisdom of the elders, stories about their history, survival skills, knowledge of plants and animals. It is a time to listen to the dreams of youth. It is a time to reflect on the past, to consider again their values of the Creation, reflect on their own values. They sing songs, and pray. It is a time to be quiet, and to listen. Listen to the sounds around them and the quiet whispers that come from within. It is a holy time.
When spring comes, it will be time to become more active: to enjoy the birth of plants and animals; to gather food, to practice what one has learned. According to our churches liturgical year, we are in Advent, the beginning of a New Year. During this year, many of our scripture lessons will come from the book of Matthew. The author of this book is writing to a primarily Jewish audience. Matthew sees Jesus as a teacher who said that God’s law is fulfilled in Jesus, the one who taught that we are to live in a new relationship with God and with other human beings; not limited to own tribe, or nationality.
As we live into this new liturgical year, let us set some time aside. I suggest you write “busy” in a time slot in your calendar each day, and use that time to read again the story of our faith; perhaps the Gospel of Matthew. Ask the Spirit to guide your thoughts and deepen your understanding, and then read it slowly, one section at a time. Listen to the thoughts and questions that drift into your mind as you read. What might God be saying or asking today? Perhaps jot them down on a note pad. Then thank God for those moments, those thin places. If God is silent, remember that good friends do not always need to talk. Being together is enough.
Mystics, First Nations people, Jesus, have all shown us they needed to be with God in quiet places. In Advent, we are reminded to do the same.