Weekly Reflection - 11/22/2021
St. Mary's Reflection: Mike Stafford, Interim Associate Minister
At The End Of The Year
For the past few years my family has taken some time on New Year’s Eve to reflect on the year behind us and the year ahead of us. We think about ways that we have grown, our accomplishments, our struggles, and most importantly, our thanksgivings for the year.
Sunday marks the start of Advent, which is the beginning of the New Year in the Church seasonal calendar, and the celebration of Thanksgiving this week seems like an opportune time to contemplate our thanks for the year that has passed.
Yet once again it feels like a strange year to be giving thanks. This has been a year of continued brokenness, with so much sorrow and so much loss. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 137, how can we give thanks and praise in a time of wilderness and weeping?
Yet we must give thanks. As the children of God we are called to give thanks at all times and in all places, and - strangely - we can mourn and give thanks in the same breath. We can give thanks for the growing opportunities to regather as a church community. We can give thanks that this Thanksgiving we have more options for celebrating with family and friends than we did last year. We can give thanks that our children over the age of 5 now have access to the vaccine. And we can also give thanks for the friends and family we lost this year, and our journey with them. And we can give thanks for the opportunity to ally with the oppressed, and the opportunity to shine the light and hope of Christ into a still-broken world.
And as we step this next Sunday into Advent, we wait with increasing expectation and joy the arrival of the Holy One, God With Us, the God of all love and creation made incarnate in the person of Jesus, and for that we give greatest thanks.
At this Thanksgiving and Church New Year, give thanks to God for all of it, even the hard parts. And then, as the Book of Common Prayer says in the General Thanksgiving (p.101), “Give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days.”
At The End Of The Year - A blessing by poet John O’Donohue
The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline’s longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.
As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.
The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.
Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.
The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.
The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.
Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.
We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.