New Year’s Day

January lst is in the liturgical calendar the Feast of the Naming of Christ, or of His circumcision. That is not a high point in my life or in society in general. Rather the celebration of the New Year - the secular year- is a major holiday in our society. We live amongst a plethora of seasons. There is the fiscal year for companies. It is not the same. Some are from January to January, others from April to April,, deending on how they keep their books. Then there is the school year, which is roughly September through June, although it varies according to public and private school, colleges and universities. Driving to work last week the lady on WQXR wished us all a Joyous Solstice!

Basically there are two kinds of time: Xairos and Chronos. Xairos is eternal time, the time that is part of God’s essential being in which He works out His will and in which all things have meaning. Chronos is the time on the clock and on the work calendar. How we understand xairos partly determines how we live out chronos.

Christianity is time set in xairos. It is set within the context of God’s working out His revelation and His reconciliation of us to Him. Christianity continues the Hebrew understanding of history. That is to say that history is seen as linear and going somewhere. It is not seen as circular with a repetition of the same old same old. Hinduism and Buddhism tend to have a more circular understanding of history. Hence the Christian, and perhaps the Jew as well, understands the seasons and the secular calendar years as set in the context of a larger scope. The nature of that scope and its purpose is what theology is all about.

You and I understand that in Jesus Christ we have come to see that life has meaning, there is purpose and there is a destination. Evil is vanquished, we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and our destination is life eternal with God (simply put).

It is appropriate that we mark the secular calendar year and look back on the previous year. Stocktaking is both wise and prudent. We can mark our failings and our shortfalls. We can see where we have grown and where we have shrunk. Each of knows of things in the past year of which we are ashamed and wish we could undo. Each of us knows of times when the kindness and help of others has changed things greatly for us. Many of us hope for a new start and a new beginning often in the form of a new job, or a new chance at things.

All of the above thoughts and desires can be placed in the context of our Xairos and our faith. As you know, I read mysteries. One of the writers I enjoy is Andrew Greeley. His novels are really not very good, but it is the basic themes and asides that I appreciate. It is from his novels that I came to realize that Christianity is a religion of second chances. Through Jesus Christ’s atonement, and through confession and forgiveness, you and I are given a second chance in life to try again to live faithfully and piously in the midst of the hectic secular world. That is quite a gift and it is quite a privilege.

This new year of 2002 I bid you to embrace the challenges and responsibilities, the freedoms and the joys. Do so grounded in your xairos, in your faith. Go forth in the name of Christ, allelujah, allelujah