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Monday, January 1st, 2018
Recently I was reading about some of the Scottish traditions related to welcoming a new year. Some of these are likely similar to practices in other cultures. One such tradition is to clean the house on the last day of the old year. It is considered bad luck to welcome the New Year in a dirty uncleaned house. It was also considered bad luck to start a new year with debts, and so all debts were to be paid by New Year’s Eve. Finally, there is a tradition where the head of the household was to open the back door of the house at midnight to let out the old year, and then open the front door in order to let in the new. (Spill the Beans, Issue 25)
Each of these traditions points to the value of starting fresh – wiping the slate clean and starting again. This is a value that is also deeply embedded in our Christian faith. Take baptism, for example. In baptism, our “old self” is left behind, and a “new self” emerges. We are cleansed, forgiven and renewed. We are welcomed into God’s family as God’s own children. It is a new beginning and a second birth, as we are born of water and the Spirit.
However, as most of us can attest, we still manage to fall into sin after baptism. Yet, even then there is the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and begin again. It is called confession and forgiveness. When we honestly confess our sins, desiring to leave them behind, God’s forgiveness is freely declared to us, allowing us to start afresh. It is just like leaving a burden behind and being able to walk around without carrying all of that weight on our shoulders.
I can’t help but think of Matthew 11:28, where Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” It is a marvelous thing to lay your burden down and start afresh. Of course, this burden might take different forms for different people.
For some, it is sin that needs to be cast aside and confessed and forgiven. For some, it is a phone or other electronic device that captures their attention for most of their waking hours. For some, it is a burden of guilt that they have held onto for too long that needs to be laid down. For some, it is a mess that has become overwhelming, or simply stuff that needs to be cleared out. For some, it is any number of things that have taken control of their lives – anything from food, to addictions, to the need to always have more.
What burden is it that you need to lay down as we begin a new year? Are there ways that you can get rid of the things that weigh you down and start fresh in 2018? Are there ways in which you can invite God’s Spirit into the process in order to guide you and renew you?
The interesting thing about Matthew 11 is that Jesus also mentions taking on his yoke and his burden, which are described as easy and light. Many have suggested that this “yoke” is quite simply the burden of love. The only new commandment that Jesus gave was to love one another as he has loved us (Jn. 13). That is the only burden that he asks us to take on – the burden of love.
What if we were to clear out all of those other things that are weighing us down and then fill the empty space with God’s love? The Holy Spirit would certainly be good with that. In fact, the Spirit delights in helping us to let go of things that only weigh us down.
As January begins, may all of us find opportunities for starting fresh, not just on our calendars, but in our hearts. For in Christ, there is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)!
Pastor Lynne Hutchison