Last week I was listening to one of my favourite podcast, The Deconstructionists, as they interviewed Dr. Alexander Shaia. He was speaking on the connections between Christmas & the winter solstice while drawing the picture of two incarnations taking place; the incarnation of the Christ, the birth of a new humanity, and the incarnation of a renewed cosmos, a new reality in creation. This imagery has remained in my mind as I reflect on the dawning of a new year.
This is the time and season where many are reflecting over that which has occurred over the past 12 months while projecting forward hopes and aspirations for the new year ahead. While some might be compiling a list of resolutions, others simply cast there visions of expected events and desires they wish to pursue. Yet all of these are a practice most often done subconsciously as an act of deconstructing & reconstructing both our personal identities and our social realities. So I paused in the imagery offered by Dr. Shaia to ask what it would mean for me to be consciously aware of my own personal and social deconstruction of the past 12 months and creational participation in the new year ahead.
Many compare the closing of the past year to a picturesque scene of a setting sun. Yet this same scene can evoke a huge range of different emotions for many people. Deconstructing the individual parts that make up the scene - the environments we found ourselves in, the people both new & old who were apart of our story, the individual events that saturate dates & times - these can be both uplifting in incredible beauty, but also scarred by the shadows of dry waste land & withered hopes.
In confession, the later of those two images has dominated my paste year with the loss of our good friends David and then Rod along with my stepfather Gene; all which left a huge wake that overshadowed much of 2017 in the spirit of death. Though I can’t give complete overshadow to this picture as there was indeed many moments of beauty that my wife and I have encountered.
It was this past May that I wheeled my first 10 km marathon in the Calgary Scotiabank Event. I had not got to train for it like I had wanted to but, with the encouragement of my good friend Abe, as he joined me on his bike in the final 2.5 km’s, I finished just under 2 hours! Returning home I was given a hero’s welcome by my wife and her parents.
We also truly treasured our moments of adventure, traveling to see the Giles & Noelle’s in Medicine Hat, meeting Dylan & Erin’s new little baby boy, Roman. We so enjoyed our time with them exploring some of the clay pottery history to this small city and the awesome display of Dylan’s pyrotechnics in fire building and barbecuing at Kin Coulee Park afterwards with Dave & Angie.
Seeing Ron & Monelle’s new place in Lundbreck Alberta, nestled into the footings of the Rockymountains was an incredible experience of beauty while we shared lunch in there backyard. It had been to long since I had the privilege of sitting with the Fraser’s as they share incredible wisdom on hosapitality and the gospel call of kingdom living amidst community. I was wishing I had brought my microphone so I could have caught some of their inspirational stories of life in the mountains. Touring their property afterwards only made us want to meet their neighbours all the more. Hopefully they can be a guest on the podcast sometime in the new year.
Of course our good friends Luke & Jackie had us out to Forgetmenot Pond for our annual Canada Day Lamb Roast. The Sharrock family only lives a few blocks away from us and they are truly the life blood of our community. Movie nights, barbecues on the deck, and living room hangouts, they enrich our lives in countless ways that truly bring a kingdom presence to our home and memories. Of course, the occasional free cookie with a smile going through the local Tim Horton’s Drive through doesn’t hurt either - Thanks Jackie. ;)
The picture is far from complete as I scan the details of this past year's landscape. The sun is setting and the inevitability of its finite death cast long drawn out shadows, evoking emotions of love & joy but also regret, loss, and sorrow. Truth be told, Bonnie and I both look forward to the sun going down on this past year while placing our hopes in a better new year.
Yes, this is the birth of the second incarnation that Dr. Shaia drew. While the sunset offers the incarnational death and rebirth of the cosmos, the very same setting gives ascent to the hopes and promises of the sunrise upon the new year, an incarnation of a renewed humanity to a story yet written.
While I have been in anticipation of the close to the past year and the deconstruction of its events, I have been journeying in the thoughts of Richard Beck's book 'The Slavery Of Death'. While opening me to the wrestlings of many great points, the need to truly rest for joy to be the focal point of any and all worship experiences or acts stood out to me as a calling for the year ahead. He writes:
“Joy and spontaneity are key indicators that love rather than guilt, shame, or fear is the engine of choice and sacrifice. Consequently, those of us struggling with shame, fear, guilt, or even spiritual competitiveness with others should stop and sit for a season with the practices of doxological gratitude. We should remain with worship and thanksgiving, singing and prayer, until joy, peace, and loving spontaneity return—fruits signaling that the eccentric identity of Jesus has been rehabilitated and restored in our hearts and minds. Yes, we can always do more, and people like St. Francis and Mother Teresa will always be out there as heroic exemplars. But any movement toward them—both the small and large steps—must be infused with the joy that was exhibited in their own lives. There will always be sacrifices to be made, but we should make them only as far as our joy can carry us. If we want to do more, that’s alright, but the first work must be joy, the fruit of doxological gratitude.”
Searching for the beauty of the rising sun and year before me, my desire is to get to work in pursuing the wonder & awe of life. But, I am slowly realizing that this pursuit must be made not in my own efforts, works, or expectations. I must learn to be in the spirit of waiting for something outside of my own imagination, making myself still in the moment, until the revelation of new truth dawns before me. While I wish to create and express through expected measures of success, I am hearing the call to wait in a place of no title, no measure, no self perceived assumptions in direction, until God is ready to reveal it.
So here I am waiting in the anticipation of the beauty in 2018's sunrise, on the eve of an expectant new incarnation with no idea what landscapes are to be revealed, who might be drawn or redrawn into the story, and where I might find revelations of life and resection. There are times I feel as though I am drowning in the waiting; but if I am to drawn, let it not be in doubt, fear, or shame... but in the immersing Spirit of all consuming joy, never ending love, and the overwhelming aesthetics of beauty and wonder!