This coming Sunday is when we celebrate two convergent events: New Year’s and Epiphany. For many of us our January 1 resolutions will already be obsolete when January 3 and Sunday rolls around, but I am grateful that there are some of you who will make important promises and keep them. You will reap benefits throughout the coming year. What spiritual disciplines will you give attention to in the coming year? What health choices do you need to make? How can you make 2016 a banner year in your life? The song from the Broadway hit “Rent” comes to mind: “Seasons of Love” with its lyrics about 525,600 minutes comprising a year in a person’s life.
January gets its name from the Roman god Janus that is always depicted with two faces in opposite directions. Janus was the mythological overseer of beginnings and transitions and offers an appropriate perspective as we begin a new year. Like Janus, we spend a lot of time at this annual juncture with one eye on the past and another on the future. It usually takes me a couple of months to get my years straight. I want to learn from the past, but I want to focus on the future. The only way to do that is to make the most of the present!
Rather than believe in a false god Janus, I believe in the one true God incarnate as Jesus. Epiphany Sunday on January 3, 2016 is a perfect time to believe in our God who forgives our past, makes the present His home, and promises to make a path through the days ahead. I can trust an unknown future to a known God! The Magi followed a sign that brought them face to face with Christ. What signs will he use to bring us closer this year?
The means of grace like devotional Bible reading, dedicated prayer time, purposeful ministry with the poor, consistent authentic worship all come to mind as attainable and healthy spiritual goals. I also think a mindset and demeanor make-over is necessary. Remember the old children’s church song, “If You’re Happy and You Know it,” and how it says our faces will surely show it. It takes a lot fewer muscles to smile than to frown.
People sometimes vex me, and it’s a weakness that I want God to help me with in 2016. My biggest problem, however, is with inanimate objects and hypotheticals. I can get so upset when a “thing” breaks or doesn’t work right. Hypotheticals are those “What if?” questions that make my brain race in a thousand directions. I want to trust God with them and not fret so much. They are mostly unanswerable anyway, or have so many answers that I either freeze up or dash headlong where only fools rush in.
Mostly, I want to make 2016 a bunch of epiphanies. There’s that word again, and it means “a revelation of God.” Like the Magi I want to look up, around, inside, and in every direction to see how and where God shows up. I don’t want to be like that poor guy out West last week who walked off a cliff because he was too engrossed in his smartphone. The most meaningful epiphanies in my life this year will be finding God in the faces of those around me.
My musing at this nexus of New Year’s and Epiphany is all about making the main thing the main thing in 2016. And they’re not things, they are “Who’s.” They’re either God or people. If I don’t get to know God better and value other people more, then this will be a stunted endeavor way short on epiphanies. Fred Craddock, the greatest preacher I’ve ever known, sums up my thoughts pretty well:
“The young woman, twenty-eight years old, at St. Mark’s church in Atlanta, said to me, ‘This is the first time I was ever in a church.’ ‘Really?’ I replied. ‘Yeah,’ said she. ‘Well, how was it?’ She said, ‘Kind of scary.’ ‘Kind of scary?’ I asked. She said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Why?’ I asked. And she said, ‘It just seems so important.’ She said, ‘You know I never go to anything important. This just seemed so important.’”
And it is – everything that you and I do this year needs to carry the weight of importance, or we don’t need to do it. Simple as that, and an epiphany awaits.