As I write these words, it's the day after Christmas. After weeks of constant activity, there is finally a moment of calm and quiet to sit and reflect on all that has happened. That’s one of the things I appreciate about Christmas; it serves as a marker in time that forces me to look back at the year that has passed.  For most of us our days are filled with busyness and demand.  There are jobs to do, bills to pay, kids to raise, errands to run, and loved ones to care for.  We spend most of our energy just trying to get through the day, and there is little left over to notice the bigger picture of where life is going.  But Christmas serves as a big road sign on our journey that makes us see things we usually miss.  And so, here I am sitting here at my mother-in-law’s kitchen table, 300 miles from home and office. The special Christmas services have all been had, the Christmas errands have all been run, the presents have all been opened, and now I finally have time to think and reflect on everything that has occurred since this same point in time a year ago.  And the one thought that comes to me over and over again is gratitude.

I am not grateful because everything that has happened in the past year has been good. To the contrary, this past year has been filled with as many heartaches and challenges as any year that has ever come.  Many of you reading these words have suffered loss and pain.  Many have spent this past year walking through the valley of the shadow. Loved ones have died, family bonds have been strained, jobs have been lost, health has faded.  But mixed in with all these losses have also been tremendous blessings. New friendships have been born. New paths of service have opened up. New insights have arisen. Marriages have been saved. Generosity has flourished.  Kindness has been shared. Beauty has abounded. The church has grown.  The signs of God’s activity has been present all around us as we have hurriedly pushed through days. I am grateful that His grace has sustained us in the both joys and sorrows of life, even when we didn’t notice it.

As we now stand at the beginning of another year, my prayer is that we will carry that sense of gratitude forward with us. I do not know what this year holds for any of us, but I can say with that great certainty that this year too will be filled with a mix of triumphs and tragedies. This year we will be just as likely to experience the good and the bad that life has to offer us. Let’s take this moment of reflection to still our spirits with an awareness of God’s sustaining grace. Look back on this past year to see all the ways He has brought you through the valleys. Where has His kindness been shown to you? What signs of His generosity have you experienced? How has His beauty enriched you? Who have been the agents of His goodness toward you? I believe the answers to those questions will help us move into this year with wider eyes and a deeper awareness of God’s sovereign presence.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor CHRIS