A Prayer for the New Year

A Prayer for the New Year December 31, 2023

So here we are at the end of yet another year. Kate Bowler, who all of you know is one of my favorite authors and podcast creators, always ends her weekly podcast (“Everything Happens”) with a blessing because, as she says, “around here we like to bless the crap out of each other.” This prayer closes her final podcast interview of the season–Jeanne and I both found it particularly compelling and insightful. Looking

I stand, stone still, at the edge of disheartenment. I have nothing but this certainty: nothing changes, nothing lasts. I feel hollow.

God, this world you made is full. Warm earth pushing up new seedlings, unfathomable oceans teeming with mystery, and the miracle that our clay bodies bear even the possibility of creating new life. We are all swimming in wonder.

So, God, why can’t I feel it? I feel my own blood turning cold with each tiring loss. Good things, beautiful loves, pried from my fingers make them seem empty to me now.

But still. Even if, today, I am sure that hope is not knocking at my door, let the lights at the neighbor’s house glow like a jack-o’-lantern. Let the sounds, wafting through the window—someone’s barking dog and kids running amok, the buzz of someone’s television rehearsing the day’s calamities—remind me that we persist somehow under a distant shadow but happy anyway.

Let the sun come down from the sky and touch me, and I will walk out to greet it, feeling the low murmur of the ground beneath my feet. And as the earth makes its creaky turns toward night, let the day fall in behind us. “What next?” we will say to the night sky before we close the door and consider its answer tomorrow.

Whatever this New Year brings, we are blessed in ways that are often hidden and need to be sought out. This passage from Reverend Ames in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead expresses what I have in mind.

It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance—for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light. . . . But the Lord is more constant and far more extravagant than it seems to imply. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who has the courage to see it?

It also takes courage to consciously and deliberately find ways to be blessings to each other, ways that often are hidden beneath a seemingly impentrable surface of cynicism and despair. Jeanne and I attended Christmas Eve service at Christ Lutheran Church in Sedona, AZ; their motto is “God’s Work. Our Hands.” It really is our job to do divine work in the world–let’s get to it. Happy New Year!

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