The calendar no longer says 2020. My first thought on New Year’s Day was, “breathe-it’s over.” However, in a way, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s not over. Although the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2021, the effects of 2020 linger. We are still going through a vaccine rollout, dealing with isolation, being cut off, fears of being forgotten, anger, and the aftermath of a tumultuous election cycle. The fingerprint of 2020 remains.
Yet, the world spins on. Earth still makes its way around the sun. Earth still rotates on its axis with no care toward whether or not it is a “new year.” We constructed that way of keeping time. The Earth’s orbit didn’t wake up one day and say “Happy New Year, everyone!” It’s just spinning on. There is evening and morning, another day. The journey goes on, in a much larger story and process than we tend to realize.
Consider, for example, the creation of the world in Genesis 1. It is so cosmic in imagery. We have light, darkness, formless voids, sun, moon, stars, waters, air. All of these forces are grand and beyond our control. But even in many of the children’s bibles around our home, there’s a tendency to fast forward to when we are created. Yeah, God created all that other stuff, but when we enter the story, it’s easier to pay attention to it. And the creation of humankind is a good thing! God actually calls it “very good” compared to all of the other days of creation when God calls it “good.” Our showing up in God’s story should be celebrated.
But here’s the rub. There were things that happened between the cosmic “in the beginning…” and our arrival into existence. It’s uncomfortable perhaps to imagine that the world was able to spin on for 5 days or perhaps even millions of years without us on it! Contrary to our tendency to place ourselves as the focus of the creation story, let alone the whole biblical story, I have to reconcile often that my worries, hopes and dreams, do not cause or impede the world’s turning. The journey goes on.
Around Christmastime, we make a big deal about how God is showing up in our story. God breaks into the world and our lives in Jesus. It’s easy to hear this in John 1 when the author writes how the Word came and lived among us (John 1:14). The truth is, the inverse is perhaps more true. God didn’t just show up in our story – we were made originally as a part of God’s bigger story. We get this in John 1 as well, how nothing came into being without the Word (John 1:1-3). As much as our hearts and our lives matter to God uniquely, there is a holy back and forth. Consequently, we are not the static center of the story of the world or even of our own lives. God is.
It’s hard to go there. We may wonder about our well-beings and our ability to attain the “good” life if we place God at the center rather than ourselves. God promises, however, that what is good with God at the center of things is good for everyone and everything. With God at the center, goodness flows and is not hoarded. With God at the center, connections happen for the sake of healing and abundance. With God at the center, our stories are all drawn to the heartbeat of the universe.
May our stories be drawn ever more into God’s story this 2021.