Updated: Jan 12
For me, the end of one year and the beginning of a new one is an interesting moment in time. It is a moment where I wonder how the year-finished went by so fast and wonderment about what is to come as the new-year begins.
One year ends in the Advent Season, a time for reflection of what it means to receive Immanuel. The new year begins with Epiphany, a season of illuminating discovery and revelation.
This intersection of time presents an opportunity to praise, ponder, and polish.
Praise - What do I wish to affirm about my experiences, accomplishments, or learnings in 2022?
Ponder - Where did I experience challenge or growth in 2022 and what do I wish to experience in 2023 that will help me grow and even be challenged?
Polish - What are those things I need refine in 2023?
For the church - as a community of faith, this can be a time to affirm ministry accomplishments, ponder challenges and growth experiences, and think about how the ministry of the church can be refined for greater impact. The church is a community that can sometimes easily be taken for granted, particularly the more we are settled and comforted by this community.
It is great to be part of a community. We hope, in being members of community, to be affirmed, accepted, and encouraged. The church reflects, through the collective experience as a witness to the world, what it means to receive and experience Immanuel – God with us and embrace opportunities to experience illuminating discovery and revelation. Perhaps, this is what the world yearns for – knowingly or unaware.
As we take comfort in being part of this community, we are reminded of the opportunity to consider what is means to be community in 2023. The story of the early church as presented in Acts Chapter 2 [The Message] says that “people in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.” Wow! This sounds like action and authenticity of presence speaks louder than words.
Today, the actions and authentic presence of the church in the world is critical. Each local church is presented the opportunity to seek the well-being [Jeremiah 29:7] of their geographic community. The well-being of communities is critical, particularly in these emerging post-Covid times, as we grapple with its impacts and effects on well-being: individually, as the church, and in our geographic communities.
Being community in 2023 can be actualized through the hospitality, fellowship, stories, and gifts the local church may decide to exhibit and activate. Being community is not about the church doing things to or for communities, but instead mutually be and do with communities.
Hospitality exhibited through mutual authentic welcome, listening, and learning from each other.
Fellowship exhibited though mutual presence, connection, and relationship building that fosters the interconnectedness and cohesiveness of community.
Stories mutually shared that present the value of each other’s lived experience, voice, and dignity.
Gifts mutually discovered, shared, and connected for greater collaboration leading to transformation of community.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16 Message
Authentically being community in 2023 could be compelling and generative. What might be our story a year from now?