We saw the New Year in with 3000 policemen, a large number of “revellers”, a portable Hari Krishna praise party, and at least six cannabis-smoking passers-by (unless it was the same fella wandering back and forth in front of me), at Trafalgar Square in the rain, the low-light of a great evening in London that also included a visit to the British Museum’s Beyond El Dorado exhibition of the pre-Hispanic gold culture in Colombia (absorbing and imaginative, and providing a fascinating insight into how you might use gold when you don’t ascribe monetary value to it) and a super two hours watching The Commitments at the Palace Theatre from what seemed like 2 miles away at the top of the balcony.
As it always does, the experience of watching people place overdue significance on the start of an event rather than the investment required for its completion is sobering. Do we really want our New Year experience to be remembered for being completely (and loudly) plastered on a London Midland train like one of our co-passengers out of Euston last night? There is nothing good that can come from this. It is like those who spend upward of £10k on “getting married” and then investing not a whit into the marriage to make it work either for themselves or for the community and families into which they are married. So there is a call to hard work to be heeded this year. We dare not allow the year to unfold itself for us without us preparing our minds for action and taking our place in the work that it presents. It’s not how you start a year, but what you make of it that will count for something in our character and life work. And in this, it will be craftsmanship, whether as leaders or teachers, parents or lovers, and the close attention to the small daily duties and pleasures of our work that will change us most deeply.
I was meditating on this early this morning (well, not that early, obviously) as I find myself again in Genesis in my reading program. For those unfamiliar with the story, it goes like this:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4)
The insight from the meditation was this: God, at the start of creation, knew the creative work he had to do, but what he had to work with was a blank slate (the old word void in the KJV gives the sense of blankness), and a workshop in total darkness. He had one power at his disposal – the Spirit of God hovering over the waters; and one requirement – light to work with. So he brought for the light (by the spoken power of his word) and he began the great work of creation. As he began to create, all he made was for the wholeness and shalom and community of the earth and the heavens. Nothing was arty or decorative – all was geared toward allowing the pinnacle of his creation (man and woman) to live with their arts (agricultural and communal) in the garden he had planted for them.
The application from this scripture today, the sense I had from the Holy Spirit as I waited, was that we have a new year before us, formless and void, the only reliable thing in our knowledge is that the Holy Spirit of God is hovering over it. We have a reliable guide in this, and an expectation of good work and creativity to come. And lastly, we have a prayer to pray – let there be Jesus’ light on our work and on our path, so that we may see clearly the work laid out before us. And may the great Spirit of God be present in our creating, our thinking and our work. Our work of creativity will be to restore community, to restore God’s love to his people, to build those links and bridges that will enable us to live in the place to which we are called in a wholesome fashion, with the daily grind and with the beauty of it too. Furthermore, there will be some ecological implications:
The name of our proper connection to the earth is ‘good work,’ for good work involves much giving of honor. It honors the source of its materials; it honors the place where it is done; it honors the art by which it is done; it honors the thing that it makes and the user of the made thing. (Wendell Berry).
We have a year before us, a year designed and planned by an affectionate and powerful God who wants to populate the work of the year with us. This is a huge privilege, and one we must not in any way mistake for “chance”. If we are co-creators with our God of the world and its life, and if, as Paul says, we have had works prepared in advance for us to do, then it is God’s initiative we are in, and he is committed to the restoration of all things – lives, relationships, knowledge, wisdom and understanding. The challenge is to go out and with what we have before us and around us, begin creating.
And with that, may you all have the most contented and hard-working of new years!