A New Year in Participation

It’s that time of year again, Some of us take inventory on the year behind us, while others make resolutions and hope for a New Year filled with blessings and exciting things.

Whether you have a tendency to study the past looking for lessons to learn, or look to the future with expectation for what it brings, I would like for us to take a moment and stay in the present. 

As the last week of the year comes to an end, wherever you might be, in the midst of whatever circumstances surround you, let’s pause for a minute. 

I want to encourage you to present yourself to the Lord just as you are. Think of the grace and love He offers us TODAY! Think of the areas of your life that it might have been hard for you to receive His grace, joy, love, and freedom of a new life in Him. God is available for you today wherever you are, whatever your situation might be. So, we pray you receive HIM and all that He brings to transform, equip, and empower you to live daily in participation with him.  Let’s talk about this word participation.

Its easy to think participation as a neutral to negative word.  It’s the little white ribbon I got for just showing up on my swim team. The kids with all the skills, were fast, and won – they got a blue, red, and silver ribbons, not the PARTICIPATION ribbon. 

But when you are in participation with the God of the universe the game changes.  It’s humbling for sure.  It doesn’t matter if you are skilled or unskilled, clever or dull, rich or poor, because it’s about the God in whose image you are made and who has unlimited resources.  It’s about listening to Him and then participating in whatever He says.

In our Christian calendar, this week started our Christmastide, the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany on Jan 6th.  As we talk about Participation, it’s good to look at Mary and Joseph. In going about their day, it was their response, the way they engaged to what God revealed to them that led them to participate in the Incarnation of God himself. Here we are, thousands of years later, celebrating a time when Mary and Joseph held God in their arms. 

It started with Mary’s response to the angel:

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:34-38 (ESV)

Likewise, Joseph responded to what was revealed to him in a dream: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” Matthew 1:24 (ESV)

Then we see in our scripture today, as we talked also about last week, that Mary’s faith continued to grow when the Shepards came and worshiped Jesus.  

Our scripture says in Luke 2, “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

Mary was contemplating all that it meant to participate with God.  This baby would certainly change her life forever, as he does with anyone who participates with Him.

When looking at these passages, we are reminded of how God, in his infinite goodness and wisdom, has always intended for us to participate in the renewal of all things with Him. Participation isn’t reserved for blue ribbon people, but the poor teenage girl, born into oppression, that simply would say “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word”

Then ponder this great participation in her heart, even till she finds herself at the foot of Jesus’ cross.

As Mary is an archetype of the Church, carrying God himself into the world, Jesus has made possible for anyone to engage in this “sacramental participation” too. The Holy Spirit is available to us today. God himself dwells in us, and we in Him. Let us quiet ourselves and listen as He speaks. 

As we celebrate the beginning of a New Year, Christiane and I desire to grow with you in this practice of participation. Being present in the midst of our circumstances, with all of our emotions engaged in hearing the ways God reveals Himself to us. Saying Yes, as He presents to us daily opportunities to carry Him into this world, and show forth His love to anyone we meet. 

Blessings and peace in 2024,

Rev. Todd and Dr. Christiane

(This edition of “Word’s from the Rector” published on 8/29/23 was edited for the 8:30 Sermon on 8/31/23)