Moving On (January 2, 2019)
Dear VICC family,
Well, we did it. We took down our Christmas decorations. At home and at the church, the trees and lights are gone and things are looking like they did before the holiday. If you know me, you know I am pretty sentimental. Part of me really didn’t like taking it all down. True, some of that was just because taking down Christmas decorations is basically cleaning, while putting them up is a form of celebration. But taking down the Christmas decorations was also admitting that Christmas is over (unless you celebrate Christmas all the way to Epiphany). It was admitting that a favorite time of year has passed and that time is moving forward whether we want it to or not.
There was also excitement in the process of cleaning up after Christmas. An acknowledgement of an open future. New things to come. The new year has begun. Taking down the decorations, along with the sunshine we had yesterday, carried my imagination forward to spring. I started thinking about all the unfinished outdoor projects I want to tackle at the house. I started anticipating being more active as the days get longer. But today, even as I write this, I look out the window at gray weather. I just came back from lunch, and it is cooooooold outside. We are still far from arriving at spring just yet.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14, NIV). Paul was writing in the context of freedom from the law and from self-reliance in our salvation. He was writing about losing his old self, a self of whom he was once proud, in order to gain a new identity in Christ. But his words have a ring to them for all of us. We all have a past. For some of us, our past is filled with great accomplishments and warm memories. For some of us, the past is full of hurt. For still others, like Paul, the past is a past without Christ, perhaps even a past that centered around another religion or set of beliefs. But for all of us, whether our yesterdays were sweet or bitter, our past is not where we are going. We can be grateful for our past, even the hard parts. I would not be who I am without the hurts I have experienced, and neither would you. Our past has formed us in many ways. The apostle Paul wouldn’t have been the apostle Paul without his previous life as the rabbi Saul. But that formative past was not what ultimately defined Paul, and our pasts are not what ultimately define us.
As we patiently await the warm spring of Christ’s return, let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge our past. There is some pain back there, and there are also some laughs. There is wisdom back there, and regret. We are who we are because of a lot of what happened back there and back then. But the past is still the past. Yesterday is still yesterday. It’s time to box some of those things up and put them away. It’s a new day and a new year. The night is getting shorter and the days are getting longer.
Your partner on the journey,