Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! Let's Make it a Great One!

Luke 4: 18, 19

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised"

"To preach the acceptable year of the Lord."

This is a favorite passage of scripture among Christians who work for social justice. When preaching, I refer to it as Jesus' Mission Statement. And I think it is appropriate for today.

I can't think of a time when I haven't looked forward to a new year. If I've considered a year to be 'good', I look forward to its continuation into the upcoming year. If the year closing out has been tough (as this one has been), I believe the next year is the one in which the hard slog of the previous year will give way to something more readily perceived as productive in the next. 

And this scripture only reinforces my optimism for 2012. 

When I read these words of Jesus in Luke it reminds me of a few things: 

1. The better year I want is something for which I can work. It doesn't just happen. Jesus declares Himself called to redemptively interject Himself into the human condition. His is a proclaiming, healing, liberating Presence. He will pray, but this verse helps us to understand that prayer isn't a passive activity, there is something about it that is intentional, assertive, even aggressive as He allies Himself with those who are marginalized. If that means a better world for me, then it is what I too must do, if the Spirit that called Him is the same Spirit that resides in me!

2. The better year I want, means working for a better year for others. We Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Advent suggests Divinity's purposely recognizing something wrong in a created order in which needless suffering and deprivation goes unchallenged. A better year cannot happen in isolation. I cannot selfishly pursue and achieve authentic prosperity and comfort while others are stranded on islands of despair and deprivation. I must not only identify with them, but engage in making this a world of access and opportunity. 

3. I'm not alone in my this work. The Message version of the Bible translates verse 19 as 'This is God's year to act!' Jesus is reading Isaiah 61, and verse 19 are words meant to evoke a reminder of the Year of Jubilee: a time when debts are cancelled, freedom is granted to slaves and lost fortunes are restored. It is an opportunity for fresh life and a new start. This is God's doing and I am partnering with Him in bringing about a new day for others and in doing so I experience His newness myself!

So, its going to be a great year! Not without challenges, setbacks or disappointments. Every year carries its share and sometimes, it seems more than its share. But for 2012 to be a great year doesn't mean that everything will go my way, it means I get another chance to work with God to experience His redemptive power and presence in my life and the lives of others.

What more could I ask for?!

Happy New Year!

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