A year has passed. We have marked our time on earth once again with the changing calendar page, the midnight fireworks, the rituals of memory and memory’s children, the now and near, today.
Time has passed, and our world fumbles and tumbles into another sphere, caught in another orbit. It has changed since this time last year. I have changed. You have changed. We have lived another year and we have one less year to live. Change. There is no stopping it. Time tumbles, stumbles, on.
My second great granddaughter came into our world in May, and as I cradled her in my arms at Christmas, I gave thanks for this change that is housed by love. New life is the kind of change we understand, we celebrate. Children and mothers and fathers form families, and add to the extended family, so that generations are changed, but in ways we know, for it is change housed by love, the love of family.
I have found that the Church is such a house, that it holds truths that do not change. Entering its doors is to enter God’s house, his holy place of worship. The central aisle leading to the chancel steps and the altar points to the sacred, the unchanging, the eternal. Stepping into this home of God is to step into a crèche, a manger, and fall down to worship. We bring the Christ Child, His presence in the tabernacle, gifts like the kings will bring soon. We have followed the star in our hearts to this place of holiness. We have heard the choirs of angels sing, pointing the way to Sunday worship, and as we look up from our pews we see them fluttering around the altar with their golden glittering wings.
These things, the truth of God and of His Son and of his Holy Spirit of love, do not change. They form a foundation of love, sacrificial love, that girds the earth and its created order with the Cross. To worship on a Sunday is to feel the firmness of this foundation, to know that truth steadies the quicksands beneath us, turning the swirling soil into rock, so that our faith can be rock-solid.
Today we celebrate the eighth day of Christmas, the eight day since the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, born to us in Bethlehem. Thursday will be the twelfth day of our celebration, marking the end of Christmastide, the Twelve Days of Christmas. Friday we celebrate the glorious Feast of the Epiphany, when the Three Kings, the Wise Men, the Magi, visit the Christ Child, bringing him gifts. These celebrations of what God has done for us, does for us, do not change. We mark them year after year, and while we have changed, will change, and our world around us changes, our hearts and souls are firm, buoyed by the changeless seasons and festivals of the Church Year.
Love does not change. And since God is love, He does not change either. He is true and He is steady and He loves us. When we are lost He finds us. When we despair He gives us hope. When we doubt He gives us faith. But we must watch and listen for Him. We must seek Him. We must open our hearts so that He can find a room in the inn of our souls.
A star appears and leads us out of the dark forest of doubt and despair, of loneliness, into the light, onto the right path, to Him, with Him, in Him, to faith, hope, and charity. He calls us and we know His voice. We are on a ledge looking down at a great gorge and up at the sheer cliff behind, trembling, and He reaches for us and pulls us back to safety with a father’s strength. How do we know His voice? We hear it in His Church.
All of this and so much more is found in His house, His Church. Even with all of the human frailty and unlove, His house is a haven from the world of change. His house is a refuge from the questions and fears and uncertainties we face daily. He invites us into His house to dine with Him, to share His Eucharistic supper, to get to know His family (and His voice), the Body of Christ, our sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers, and our children. For we are not alone. God has provided shelter, family, friends, and love.
And so today, this New Year’s Day 2017, we were thankful our bishop visited us and confirmed of one of our children. In this sacrament of Confirmation, the child confirms the vows made at her Baptism, vows to follow Jesus as her Lord. She has now become an adult member in Christ’s body, and she has received the Holy Spirit through the hands of the bishop, who is in the long line of succession of bishops going back to the first apostles. In this way time has entered eternity and eternity has entered time.
Tomorrow, January 2, we will face the tumult of our times, the selfishness of our own hearts and those we love. We shall hear of wars and tragedies and hurricanes and earthquakes. And yet, the Church will hold us fast until our next visit. This Body of Christ, all around us, seen and unseen, past and present and future, will light our way in the darkness on our pilgrimage to God with God.
I choose to follow that path of love, day by day, to Epiphany, to the next lamppost, the next liturgy. For between Eucharists, we travel safely, to safety, allowing the Christ of Christmas to enter our own time, our own bodies, allowing eternity to enlighten our minutes, hours, days, and years.