The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; (Isaiah 61:1-2)
At coffee hour today, we discussed our goals for the New Years. I’ve long known to set goals for myself rather than make resolutions. Goals are what I seek to reach. Resolutions are what I expect to impose upon myself. The first contain a certain fluidity. Reaching them may take longer than I imagine. They will change if I discover they’re inappropriate. The latter seem to me more like an exam that I cannot miss and must pass with a minimum score: I must lose X amount, must learn Y, must somehow, some way do something and if I don’t, I will have failed at my New Year’s resolutions.
Discovering that others have similar perspectives on setting goals for the New Year was lovely. In surprise, I stammered out, “I want to supplement my income doing things I love and finish my book.” It’s true but I don’t usually tell the truth. Instead, I deflect the conversation or weave so many words around my answer the truth is hidden in a dense cloud. When asked what kinds of things I might do, I further surprised myself, “Sewing and teaching dance.” Then my best friend reminded me that I will be teaching him, and perhaps others, to sew. I amended my list of income enhancing activities.
Then the big surprise came. We actually discussed what I wanted and how I could accomplish it within the community. One new friend told me there’d probably be enough opportunity to do light tailoring within our parish. Another told me there was a market for teaching people to sew. Others have asked that I teach dance. I need not figure it all out on my own. This Christian community delights in encouraging each of us to be who God has created us to be. I find it baffling. They owe me nothing. They don’t even know me and might not like me very well if they did. Still, they open their arms and gather me in.
When we consider how selfish we are, any experience of community at all, particularly in the civilized West, is a miracle. Most of us can survive without each other even though we can’t thrive. With all the distractions in our lives, many of us don’t know what thriving is.
Christian community is an even greater miracle. The spontaneous gathering in of strangers who have no claim on us requires us to risk loving as Christ loves us. There are no guarantees. Love may never be returned. And we will simply not like some people; some will never like us. Still, there are those who choose to allow Christ to pour them out as He poured Himself into our world over 2000 years ago. They make miracles happen. They bind up the broken hearted, support captive making their way from cold, dark prisons into warm, blinding light. They confirm that the year of favour is indeed come. Christ is born. God is among us.