8th Day of Christmas: Happy New Year!

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In my tradition, we actually celebrate Hogmanay. It’s a word of nebulous origins from a Scottish culture that is the mixing pot of many differing traditions. Scots celebrate the last day of the year instead of the first (although the party usually lasts well into New Year’s Day). It’s an unusual celebration: you spend the whole day cleaning house, clearing debts, and putting your life in order. Then, when everything is perfect, you indulge in some of the more popular vices until the sun comes up. It’s good luck if the first visitor of the new year is a man with dark hair (because watch out for those bloody blonde Vikings), and it’s better if he brings shortbread (but life is always better with shortbread). Then in Scotland, January 1 and 2 are both holidays, to help you recover from the bender you’ve just been on.

I just like that image – get everything ready so we can mess it up all over again!

I feel like every day could be Hogmanay. Every day I try to put my life in order, and every day I inevitably mess something up. It’s not because I’m less competent or considerate than other people; I’m just human. I can make all the resolutions I want, and I may even keep some of them. And even if I can see improvement over time, even if I am becoming a more gracious and loving person, even if I manage my life with aplomb and my family with care, even if I excel at my job and receive the praise of wise people and the love of fools, I will probably fail again.

Today I give thanks for a God who plucks me out of the dirt when I fall down, helps me dust myself off, and then keeps letting me do my thing… even if it is inevitable I will fall down again. I learn things down there in that dust, things that the clearer air at eye level clouds up. I learn about my humanity, about compassion, about forgiveness. I learn about injustice. I learn about consequences and restoration. I learn about mercy and grace. I learn what is important to take seriously and what is less important to take seriously. These dusty life lessons have served me well.

So Happy New Year, and Happy Hogmanay.

Here is a blessing. I was looking for a way to say this… and then Steve Garnaas-Holmes said it better. If you are looking for a devotional blog to continue reading after this time in #getanupperroom has passed, I can’t recommend his Unfolding Light blog highly enough.

New Year Blessing

In the new year I do not wish for you
that God will bless you,
since God already intends
only the deepest blessings for you.
I don’t wish that good things will happen to you,
since I don’t know
what will most beautifully shape your soul—
in what losses you will receive grace,
in what challenges you will gain wisdom,
in what struggles you will become more truly yourself.

Instead I hope for you this blessing:
that your heart be at peace,
that your mind be open
and you will be lovingly present;
that you live each day this year with love, courage and beauty,
with gentleness, trust and gratitude.
That you speak and be the truth,
that you find joy and wonder in your life,
that you be deeply mindful
of God’s indwelling presence–
God’s deep delight in accompanying you
in every breath.

May your work be fruitful,
your hope vibrant,
your voice clear,
and your friends faithful.

Whether you feel it or not,
deep blessing will be yours this year.
May you know it, and rejoice,
and live in harmony with God’s grace.

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes, 2011
Unfolding Light
http://www.unfoldinglight.net

A reflection by Kris Marshall

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Kris is the Associate Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Santa Rosa, California. Kris tweets at @revkris. You can also subscribe to her weekly sermon podcast.
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