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A Full Slate

It’s a new year! A new start. A blank piece of paper. A chance to start over again. Or at least that’s perhaps what the new year’s hype with its enthusiastic cry to resolutions and revolutions would have us believe. Except it’s not is it? It’s not a fresh start or a blank piece of paper. Our pages for the new year are already full, if not with plans, then perhaps with routines. But it’s not just the things that we do that fill up our lives, we have our relationships, our responsibilities, our habits, our priorities, our desires and our dislikes. The list is actually much longer but I have neither the mental capacity to consider them all or the space to list them all here. The point is this; there are no do-overs. And it would be a tragedy to discard all of this, perhaps even our very selves in order to have a chance to start again.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for change and growth. Who doesn’t love transformation to something better? But in life meaningful change is usually more about the chisel than the bulldozer. If we look at ourselves this new year and think that we want something more or something different, then that change can’t come from ignoring who we’ve been or what we’ve done, but it starts from where we are. No one likes to think about their mistakes or failings but living like we’ve made none only makes us more likely to repeat them. Of course holding on to them just keeps us bound in regret and unable to move forward, so what are we to do if we want to change?

Well, we might be into the new year, but Christmas isn’t yet over. The 12 days of Christmas last until epiphany – the 6th of January. That’s when we celebrate the Magi visiting the baby Jesus, or to put it another way, it’s when we celebrate them turning up late. And if you think showing up twelve days late is bad, in reality we know that it was at least forty days and may have been over a year! This is a great source of encouragement to me. Partly because whilst I am sometimes late to things, I’ve never been THAT late!

Mostly however, it is for another reason. To be directed to the most important event in human history and to arrive weeks after it had happened could have seemed like a failing. We will never know all that happened on that journey or if they could have arrived earlier. But regardless of what did or didn’t happen, what we do know is that they did arrive. And not to an empty stable. Likely not to a stable at all because it would have been weird if Mary and Joseph decided to stay there with a new born baby for the next forty days! But wherever they met Jesus, they found themselves in just the right place at just the right time. Despite trouble on the journey, God is able to bring us where we need to be, and He’ll bring all the pieces together so that they meet at the right time.

It is here that we can begin (or indeed continue) creating our new selves. Not in the empty calendar of next year, but in the fullness of Jesus. In the filled manger and the empty cross. In the life of Jesus we can see what it truly means to be human, we can see what we were made to be. By his example we can see how to change, but He is not just a past life to hold up to our lives. He is also alive and moving in our lives. It is through His power, strength and guidance that we are able to change; to become and do what we can’t on our own. Lastly and perhaps most amazing of all, through Jesus we can look back where we’ve fallen and smile not despair. Our guilt has been removed by Jesus and placed on His shoulders, because He loved us so much. He loved us then and loves us still. Although we aren’t yet all we long to be, we can know that He can’t love us more than He already does! We might not have blank pieces of paper, but whilst they are full, they are not yet complete. They are evolving and changing and being filled with colour! Here’s to a bright and beautiful 2022!

Originally written for the January 2022 ABC Newsletter

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