I’ve loved January for a while now.
It’s not that I don’t love December and all that those 31 days mean– I do. I love the Christmas tree and the decorations and the lights. And more than that, of course, I love Advent: the awareness of the waiting, the quietness of the birth, the miracle of His willing arrival into our squalor. That stable couldn’t have been terribly clean.
But December in our world is crowded, too, not unlike Bethlehem, I guess. The decorations crowd things, lovely as they are. But it’s more the days, I mean. At our house, December has a second precious birthday (Everett) tucked between Christmas and the New Year. For me– and now for Will– December also means final exams and the crush of getting ready for them: it’s an issue for student and for teacher. Then we all have (don’t we?) the Christmas festivities, which mean more demands on weeknights and weekends– each of them delightful and also (if you’re like me) each of them tapping into a pool of energy that is really not at all limitless. For all of its joy and beauty, December can be a little… well, you know, Phew.
So I love January. The Christmas decorations have to come down sometime, don’t they? And there underneath the evergreen that we tote out or sweep away are the clean lines I love: the gloss of the black piano and its framed photographs, the windows with their views unobstructed. Outdoors, the world echoes that perspective: trees, their arms empty, catch the light in quiet lines. And the calendar, after December’s mad rush, reminds one of the trees, yes?: lines and the spaces between them, open.
It fills one with optimism. What isn’t possible in all that space? This is why, I suppose, we make our resolutions. It’s a new year, after all. Why not also make myself new? Why not try in earnest this year to get more sleep, or to be on time for a change? This kind of new makes for all kinds of possibility. January is, I’ve decided, very Hopeful.
And yet it’s difficult– say when one is bundled against the cold and taking the dog for a walk early on a January morning– to believe that the year is, in fact, new. The moon, for which our “month” is named, is only just mid-phase. It was at a tidy half yesterday, not at all the “new” moon that maybe it should be for all our celebrating. The birds, their early morning songs clipped in the cold air, show no signs of the newness of the month or calendar year. And the trees, well. They are still waiting it out. It’s winter– still winter– and will be for Some Time.
Which makes me think about Him. How relevant is it to him– the Timeless One– that we should make this shift from 2011 to 2012? And yet He understands our need for calendars, for festivals, for routine reminders– in the form of celebrations or quiet observance– periodically throughout the year. He instituted quite a few of them Himself in the Old Testament. I can’t think why He wouldn’t love New Year’s celebrations– and maybe especially reminders of the New.
I think He loves the New, in fact. I think He revels in it. Maybe New Year’s celebrations are among His favorite. He who makes us new, who makes all things new, who is doing a new thing, who calls us to sing a new song– He might be glad for us to celebrate this newness. He might wish that, for us, the newness could become something less of an annual event and be more weekly, with a Sabbath rest attached, or daily, with a new awareness of his mercies that are — here it is again– new every morning. Maybe we can learn to live in the newness every minute, with every confession of jealousy or resentment, because in those confessions– instantly– we are made new again.
I like this.
And I like C.S. Lewis, whose Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, I have been re-reading and seeing with (you guessed it) new eyes. Here I am reminded that He who is always the Same, who never changes, is the expert on New, looking (as perhaps He always is) for new ways to show us the glory of who He is: And how should the infinite repeat Himself? All space and time are too little for Him to utter Himself in them once.
His very unchanging Self, shown in new ways for our open eyes every minute, every day– in January, June, or December.