High River United Church of High River, Alberta

Rooting Ourselves in Wonder as We Greet 2021

We come to the end of one year and begin a new year. In reality, it is an arbitrary thing, this ending of one year. For the Celtic peoples, the year end was October 31st, the end of harvest. The Chinese New Year can take place anytime between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20. In parts of Asia, such as Cambodia and Sri Lanka, the new year begins in mid-April. Diwali, celebrated within Hindu, Sikh and some Buddhist traditions, marks the beginning of their new year and is celebrated between mid-October to mid-November. Rosh Hashanah, literally meaning "head of the year", is the Jewish New Year celebrated in September. The Islamic New Year, called the Hijri New Year, is observed by Muslims on the first day of the month of Muharram, according to the Islamic calendar.  Even within our own culture, we have various “new years,” such as the start of the school year at the beginning of September. And for Christians, the new year begins with the first Sunday of Advent.


For cultures that grew out of the Roman Empire, the Gregorian calendar (established in 1582 to replace the Julian calendar) marks January 1st as New Year’s Day. It is a solar calendar (in contrast to a lunar calendar) and is anchored by the fall and spring equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices.


So what does it mean to mark the beginning of the New Year? Why do we do it? As human beings, it is natural to want to mark time. As people of faith, we engage this marking of time as part of our spiritual journey. This makes the New Year more than just a time to celebrate that we have completed another cycle around the sun. As people of faith, we pause to give thanks for the year past and to look forward in faith-filled hope.


Another spiritual practice that we feel is so important at this turning of the years is Wonder! There really is so much wonder in our world and in our every day lives. The fact that our finger nails grow and need to be cut, and our hair as well. No matter how many times we see the pink of sunrise or the melding of colours that fade into the sunset blue sky or the constellations of stars above us, we feel wonder. This morning, hearing the birds chirping in our backyard was amazing. Opening a new book and discovering that the author has created a new tale for my reading pleasure, picking up a new skein of yarn and watching the pattern take shape as I knit, pressing the button on a camera (or cell phone) and capturing a photo….. the world is full of wonder.


In a year when there has been so much grief, worry and alarm, it is good to ground ourselves in the wonders that abound in our every day lives. So many things we take for granted are truly wonders to behold if we pause for a moment and consider what is happening.   As we say, “Good-bye” to a year that was not what we had expected 12 months ago, and as we welcome a new year that will continue to hold pandemic challenges for us, wonder is a spiritual practice that roots and grounds us in gratitude and hope.


So, as 2020 concludes and we welcome 2021, we invite you into the spiritual practice of wonder. Pause before you take a bite of food, as you step outside, as you prepare to get out of bed in the morning and as you tuck in at night and let yourself enter into a sense of the wonder of your life and the world around you. Let wonder be your guide into the new year. Let wonder help you sink into God’s presence in your life.


May you know the wonder of God's love, day by day.
Many blessings for the year 2021.                                                       
Rev. Susan & Rev. David

High River United Church – a community of help, home & hope

“Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy.” A. Heschel




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Happy New Year Snow Man



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