A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine made a comment about how August, and the beginning of school will always be her “new year”. Now, I’m not a school teacher any longer, and I have even been out of seminary for several years, but I can relate to the feeling of the beginning of school marking a new year. And it got me thinking about the different ‘new years’ that are celebrated, and how these cycles and rhythms help shape our lives.
There is the new school year, marked with purchasing school supplies, and perhaps the return to more structured schedules and extracurricular activities. There is a new calendar year, marked with traditional meals (black-eyed peas and cabbage in my family), late night celebrations, and perhaps the making of resolutions. There is the Christian liturgical new year, beginning with Advent and marked with the lighting of candles, special music, and preparations for celebrating the birth of Jesus. There are also the Chinese New Year, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), and I am sure many others across a number of cultures.
I don’t know about you, but keeping a calendar helps me stay organized, and following the rhythms and cycles of a year help me to feel grounded. But the past year and a half or so of living through the pandemic have made time feel just plain wonky (for lack of a better word). Some of the traditions and daily practices that I have relied on to celebrate or mark the passing of time and special occasions have been thrown out the window, and it has made time seem to move by slowly and quickly all at once.
And yet, I am reminded that no matter how time seems to move, whether I can remember what day of the week it is or not, or whether I can believe that it’s August (already!), that God is with me in it all.
This Sunday, we will mark the beginning of the “new year” with a blessing for students and educators during worship. In the blessing we are reminding one another that God is with us, and inviting God to help us mark this season in a special way. It makes me wonder: what other times and ways can I acknowledge God’s special presence with me, and with us? In how many other instances in my life can I ask for God’s blessing to help keep me grounded when everything else feels so topsy turvy?
Whatever the occasion for celebrating the beginning of something new, I invite you to ask God to bless and be present in it.