Three Gifts for the New Year 2024

– Br. Michael, ofm


Based on the scripture: Numbers 6.22-27; Psalm 67; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21


Today, January 1, as we mark the start of the new calendar year, as we pray for peace in our world and as we mark this Christmas Octave Feast of Mary Mother of God, the scriptures offer us three gifts. In this season of gift giving, today the scriptures speak of the gift of blessing, the gift of relationship, and then a triple gift of sharing-glorifying and pondering. I invite us to consider each.

The gift of blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you.” This blessing God spoke to Moses to share with Aaron centuries later became a favorite for St. Francis of Assisi and is a favorite for many Christians. St. Francis wove these words of blessing into his own blessings and into the life of the Friars because he wanted all to know the gift of God’s face shining on them. The gift of blessing is a reminder of God at work in our life. To know the gift of blessing is a reminder each day of encountering the gracious mercy and love of God and knowing God looks upon us with tenderness and goodness. This gift of blessing is the promise of the Christmas Season – God with us – in the celebrations and in new beginnings, also in heartaches and trails, and in pondering, prayer and even in our seeking. Pope Francis reminds us, “what are we to do with this grace? Only one thing: accept the gift. Before we go out to seek God, let us allow ourselves to be sought by God. God always seeks us first” (Homily, Dec. 24, 2019). This is the gift of blessing today, this season and always.

The second gift is the gift of relationship. The letter to the Galatians expresses the depth of relationship and how each of us are brought into the miracle of Christmas. A pastor whom I have the great joy of journeying with, reminded me this excerpt from Galatians is the “stunning vision of how much we really are of God as we are now viewed as God’s own child.” The very Spirit of Jesus lives in us and allows each of us in our situations to call out to God – Abba – the intimacy of being in relationship with God – it is personal, it is holy, it is life for each of us. “All which is true of Jesus is then true of us through the Spirit, we are the son, the daughter, the child of God” because God desires nothing more than to be in relationship with us. This is a powerful reminder as we begin a new calendar year journeying into the unknown. It speaks of hope, of our value in being made of God and of the work of Christmas which is ours to do in building relationships, repairing relationships, and being a church which values the gift of relationship.

The third gift is the triple gift of sharing-glorifying and pondering. The gospel today picks up from where we left off on Christmas Eve. The poorest of the poor have received the good news; the outcasts have been reminded of their dignity and have been given the great message of telling others about the gift of God with us – here and now, in our life and reality. If we think of the lowly shepherds first gifted with sharing and glorifying at the beginning of the life of Jesus and also consider at the resurrection it was Mary Magdalene and the other women gifted with sharing the good news of his resurrection – we see God relies on those who society has not always valued, to be the first messengers of the depth of the love of God. This is important to take note of for it is an invitation for each of us during this Christmas time and as a new year begins. How do we share good news, support, presence and hope with others?

The mystic Maggie Ross reminds us: “Behold, Behold the God who is infinitely more humble than those who pray to him, more stripped, more emptied, more self-outpouring… the scandal of the Incarnation is not that we are naked before Emmanuel, God with us, but that God is named before us and, in utter silence, given over into our hands and hearts.” This is not a nostalgic moment of long ago for the shepherds hearing the name of Jesus and knowing they needed to tell others. It is not the moment for Mary and Joseph when they brought Jesus to the temple and officially named and circumcised him. It is not only even the moment of Mary pondering the miracle of which she has said yes. It is the miracle of Christmas each year; the beauty of God with us. It is the triple gift we each have the ability to share – we like Mary and Joseph, we like St. Francis 800 years ago this Christmas, have the Christ Child placed into our hands and hearts today. Each time we come to the banquet of the Eucharist and then carry forth the Eucharist in our daily living we live from and share this gift. Even in the chaos of the world there is still much goodness to share, to glorify God for and with Mary to ponder and treasure. As we look back on what was and as we look ahead to what may be, let us do so with deep trust – knowing there are treasures in the journey and let us make time to ponder with Mary how Christ is made known to us in the ordinary, the simple and in the Child we behold.

As we receive Christ in the Eucharist we will respond Amen, affirming our belief in the gift of blessing, the gift of relationship – God with us. In this Amen we affirm we carry Christ with us into 2024, we affirm God with us – will meet us in all the seasons of this year and we affirm we are a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. This is how peace in our world begins with each of us and our sharing of this blessing, this gift with others.

May each of us know much peace, much goodness and much joy in 2024.