Reflection - January 3, 2017

By Darren McClellan

published 1/3/2017
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 
                                                                                    --Isaiah 42:1
Dear Friends,
Happy New Year!

I pray that the remaining days of this Christmas season find you full of the joy of our Lord.  In my previous appointments I remember well how the experience of running the Christmas gauntlet full of various festivities and multiple worship experiences can leave both clergy and laity feeling exhausted.  Frazzled by the task of leading in the journey to Bethlehem, I was occasionally duped into behaving as if I was responsible for bearing the light of the Christmas season all on my own.  Whatever happened to merely watching and waiting?  Daunted by the prospect of peace on earth, it is all too easy in our anxiety to settle for something of our own fabrication.  Thus, perhaps you also felt the pressure of “delivering Christmas” for you or your congregation.  As if the initiative revealed in the Word made flesh was somehow insufficient!  As if YOU were the one that hung the star in the night sky!  As if the grueling conditions of postpartum were our own!  Good gracious…no wonder we’re tired…and empty!  Lord, have mercy!

Is this a reasonable posture for us?  Not entirely.  It is, after all, the Holy Spirit that has been at work through Mary in this delivery and not us.   Therefore, our fatigue ought to pale in comparison. I do hope that you were able to enjoy some semblance of a vacation over this Christmas season in the interest of rest and recovery.  However, for those who might wish to languish at the finish line of 2016, we do well to realize that the liturgical calendar is already well ahead of us.  Even now the wise men are trotting along toward the manger with gifts in tow.  With the Epiphany looming, there is a sense of urgency building as the Scriptures challenge us with the question of what we will bring to this unescapable encounter with God’s own Son.

For this reason, I hope many who hold responsibility for worship planning will consider incorporating the observances that highlight the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday, January 8.  Not to be overlooked, this occasion has proven to me to be one of the most important worship experiences in leading a congregation toward greater discipleship in the coming year.  The reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant found in the The United Methodist Book of Worship is a great place to start (p. 111), and serves as an excellent teaching tool for the sacrament of baptism as well as the rehearsal of our commitment as members of the Body of Christ.  

In this liturgical act, we are afforded the opportunity to reclaim the knowledge that God alone is the Great Deliverer.  At the invitation of the Holy Spirit, we are also given a chance to appropriate and renew our energies in response to the call of Emmanuel.  What do we bring to the occasion? Well, truth be told, the Son of God probably has all of the frankincense, gold, and myrrh he could possibly need by now.  As the Gospel writers will soon tell us, what he really wants—the gift of his choosing—is us. 

Followers of Jesus Christ…today, yesterday, and forever.  Happy…new…year. 

I hope you’re rested, because our journey has just begun.
So let us come to the water!

Remember your baptism and be thankful!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Tell of God’s mercy each day.
Declare his works to the nations,
His glory among all people.
Let the church say Amen!