Some suggested resolutions
Happy Holidays, everyone! (No, really — I know it's after New Year's). That greeting started long ago within Christianity because there's more to celebrate than simply the birth of Jesus — there are many holy days ("holidays") at this time of year, including New Year's Day, and we are still in the midst of the "twelve days of Christmas".
Have you made any resolutions? Have you already broken them? But these twelve days are technically the time of feasting and joy, so it's no time to feel broken!
In Louisiana, where I come from, the next major feasting time has already begun, with King Cakes and partying that lasts through Mardi Gras. There is a saying, "Jockomo Feenanay," which you'll hear in some Cajun songs, and you may think it's just sing-song, but it's kind of a theological statement. The phrase is a corruption of a French phrase, "chaque mois fin annee" — each month is the end of the year, or every day is New Year's Eve. In other words, every single day is one to savor, appreciate, enjoy, and notice as both an ending and a beginning. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Write it in your heart that every day is the best day in the year."
About those resolutions, and this feasting time of year, and joy that begins and ends each day, how about going to a religious service? Really, truly, there are spiritual feasts being prepared always in our congregations, (also, some feasts of food), and you only have to bring yourself, and you will be accepted as you are. I read recently that our Unitarian Universalists have begun gaining members nationally, after declining for a few years, as all mainline churches have been doing, but I have hope for all our congregations that we increase our presence, for the good of the world.
For a few years I left the active ministry to care for my parents full-time, and I took the opportunity to visit many different churches. I could feel that wisdom and grace, joy and love was always present, in so many different versions of being religious. At one Black Baptist church in Virginia they each brought their offering to the altar, in a kind of Mardi Gras style parade, dancing all the way! I felt just self-conscious enough to send my gift with the nearest child. But when I went to a megachurch I did manage to dance to the rockin' "hymns," along with everyone else. At a Methodist church we greeted Easter sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay with country songs on the guitar, while a Lutheran church had a bell choir at this time of year that resounded in my heart. In religious settings, I've been blessed with jazz and classical music, chanting and folk songs, and yes, glorious hymns. And that's just the music! What an amazing experience our religious services are, though it can seem like a big secret — if people only knew, we'd be full to overflowing in the streets.
Twentieth century theologian and pastor Paul Tillich believed and promoted a truth he had come to know, that a power greater than us, which we do not necessarily understand or even know how to name, accepts us as we are. He found that truth in the concept of grace in Christianity, but the way he described it transcends all religions. He wrote, "Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!" We need to know the good news that all is well, that we are accepted, that joy is our portion. Where better to experience this truth and power than in our congregations?
I honor you for whatever New Year's Resolutions you are making this year, but may I also suggest these: 1). I resolve to greet each day with joy. 2). I resolve to notice that everyone matters. 3). I resolve to accept myself and others while working to make myself and the world a better place. 4) I resolve to open myself to the present moment and to transformation. 5) I resolve to meet the challenges of my life with Love. 6) I resolve to be grateful for my life and this world. 7). I resolve to make room for everyone. 8). I resolve to follow my dreams. 9). I resolve to be a pilgrim seeking the Holy. 10). I resolve to seek the Spirit by attending religious services. Blessings on the journey.
The Rev. Kathy Duhon is pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.