All shall be well. All shall be well. Every manner of thing shall be well.
So wrote the mystic Julian of Norwich; she was the head of an order of nuns in England some eight centuries ago. “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” Her words beautifully capture the spirit of Psalm 23. They, too, are words of assurance and comfort.
Happiness and joy are two different things. I know that there are smart, even brilliant, people who would argue that this is not the case, that happiness and joy are the same. Perhaps in a time gone by, the two words had more in common. Today? I don’t think so.
In the age of social media, there is added pressure to show the world our perfection. We post photos of the kids doing great things or showing how well they are doing in school. The birthday photos and the graduation pictures. The piano recitals and the awards that were hard earned.
It is that time of year when we often “look back” over what happened last year. Christmas letters detail vacations taken, milestones marked, a synopsis of joys and sorrows. Organizations send out summaries of accomplishments, goals met, and accomplishments to celebrate. It is good to look back, especially if we do it with a spirit of thanksgiving for God’s presence in the middle of it all.
It is almost a new year. I find that I am not quite ready for 2023. It seems that we should not be entering a new calendar year because there is so much that is on my to-do list that should have been completed in 2022. Flipping over the calendar (for those of us that still use a paper calendar) can be a stressful act. It is stressful for all sorts of reasons. Stressful because there are so many things left undone. Stressful because there are so many things coming up.
I must admit that each Christmas I bear a bit of “bah humbug” about the whole holiday scene. Sparkly lights and decorated trees illicit a deep and abiding “meh” from me. It is not that I have a shrunken heart like the Grinch. I think it is more that Christmas – the Incarnation of God in Christ – is so big, so holy, so unimaginably sacred that all the trappings fall short of the glory.
Most of us live busy lives. If you’re a parent, there is pressure to ensure your child is in every activity in the world. It might be one sport during the fall, another for winter, another for spring, and yet another for summer. Then add in band activities and scouting, and every other activity, and it can seem like there is an activity or some place to be every day or maybe even twice a day (or more).
Names are important. They are more than a means of identification. Names are part of knowing someone and being known by others. This is especially true in scripture. God gives Abram and Sarai new names, calling them Abraham and Sarah. It may seem a small change, but it identified them as not just heads of a family, but blessings to the whole world. Jacob is renamed Israel. Saul becomes Paul. In each case, they are known by God and their name is important.
This past Sunday was the first week of Advent. It was the first week of the Church’s calendar. Advent marks a beginning. Advent marks a time of looking. Advent marks a time of waiting for the Christ child.
The turkey is defrosting. The house smells of pies baking. Preparations for the annual Thanksgiving Day are underway. One preparation is still undone – a list of the things for which I am thankful. Steeped in the mythic stories of the Mayflower and the big spread shared by indigenous Americans and their English guests, we will focus on the feast and the harvest time. Certainly, we will give thanks for family and friends. Maybe we are grateful for health – and if we are honest – wealth. The list is long, and I’m glad I only must do this once a year! But then I read scripture.