New Year and Born Again Christmas
I usually bring in the New Year encircled by over a hundred loving family members, celebrating the gift Christ gave us in his body and blood. We are surrounded by the walls of a retreat house that is built on the sacred ground our first nations people once inhabited.
Through the windows we can see the snow in the trees and the movement of the spirits of nature on the banks of the Saskatchewan River. Filled with gratitude, I am always moved to deeper reflection.
The Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction. Isaiah 30:19-20.
New Year’s morning may find some with a headache and feeling the affliction and adversity of last year’s celebrations. God did not come to earth to put an end to suffering and death; Jesus came to share this human condition with us.
Monks used to greet each other with “memento mori”, a reminder of the brevity of life. Thanks to the Christmas event and Easter we celebrate not the ending of life but the entry into new life when our time on earth is ended.
This past Christmas I was struck with the idea of a “born again” Christmas. Unless we embrace the reality of the birth of our Saviour, and for most of us that means again becoming children at heart, we are not on the path to the Promised Land.
Even children struggle with these concepts. In “Clinging to the Promise of Joy in the midst of Grief” Leah Perrault shares the example of the child of a friend of hers who refused to get dressed to go to the Christmas Mass.
“I’m not going!” he declared to his exasperated mom. “I’m not going to go celebrate the birth of a baby so that we can kill him at Easter!”
We need to have Christ born again in our hearts at Christmas so we can continue the journey towards the events of Easter. The rich symbolic language of scripture helps us visualize this voyage. The chosen people travelled forty years to reach the Promised Land. What is our Exodus?
Ultimately we will reach the New Jerusalem. Advent helped us prepare the way and make straight the path. We may learn to accept the “bread of adversity” which is the manna in our lives. The “waters of affliction” we experienced in our baptism was our putting sin to death in our lives.
So we enter the New Year having been born again in spirit with the events of Christmas:
“…this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places… [our lives after Christmas]
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.”
T.S. Eliot “Journey of the Magi”
Having experienced Christmas, we are a changed people. We cannot return to the godlessness of the society around us. We are no longer at ease trying to live by rules that lack moral truth. Society’s gods are not our gods.
Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given;
While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth. Martin Luther