By REV ANGELA C BOSFIELD PALACIOUS
Now that we are on the other side of 2018, we can look back and consider what really needs to be left behind. What is it that we really want deep down in our hearts to have happen in this new year?
What we can consider first are the hurts and failings of the past that need to be released. The story of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, which we commemorate in the church as a part of the Christmas celebrations, reminds us that life has its tragedies even in the midst of joy: “When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2: 16-18).)
Sometimes we ask ourselves how can we feel happy again in a new year without our loved ones who have died, because the closer the relationship the deeper the loss. The consolation of Christmas is that the baby who is born has come to give us the gift of eternal life. There is no permanent separation, and even the temporary absence includes the comfort of being united together in Christ on a spiritual level.
Ask God to keep the best memories strong and to allow the more painful ones to recede after the lessons have been learnt. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4).
What needs to be forgiven and forgotten as much as possible? What would you like to leave behind? Consider what you learnt about yourself, God, and human nature in each encounter and get spiritual direction to change your emotional response if it is not healthy. The Holy Spirit is a wonderful healer, and you can ask God to be set free from the things that others have done to you. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Are guilt and shame destroying your dreams for a better life? Now is as good a time as any to ask God for that makeover and begin to follow the path of confession, repentance, and the practice of new spiritual disciplines. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalms 51:10-12)
Why do we need a Christian foundation? Why do we need to worship God and acknowledge God’s sovereignty? We need a firm foundation based on solid beliefs in Someone larger than ourselves and whose plan is bigger than our small dreams. We need love and God is love. We need inner healing and the Lord is the Great Physician. We need to belong and God has created the family of believers. We need truth and God’s word is trustworthy. We need forgiveness and the Cross offers God’s grace: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2).
This new year offers a great chance for change. Are you ready and willing?
• Rev Angela Palacious, a motivational speaker and author of several devotional books, is an Anglican priest. She may be contacted at 393-9000 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.