In many ways, my favorite week of the year is this last one. It feels like a pause between the rush of Christmas and the press to get the new year off to a meaningful and productive start. The pace is blessedly slower and saner. I have a brief break from preparing sermons and Bible studies and from the meetings that are jammed into most weeks. Because almost everyone else takes some sort of break, the flow of emails slows, fewer memos cross my desk, and the phone rings less often. I am, of course, paying attention to end-of-year finances at the church, since December is such a crucial season of giving for us; and, in this year or economic distress, uncertainty hangs over how the year will end.

For the most part, this is a week for taking stock. Here are a couple of things I have been pondering since Christmas:

1. Love matters most of all. Jesus made that simple but crucial lesson clear: love for God and love for neighbor are more important than anything else. And, our own yearnings and needs confirm his wisdom: what God expect and commands is what we most crave. Love is what we need and want. In many ways, I think the central task of ministry is helping people to experience love–working to remove the barriers, take down the defenses, and heal the hurts and fears which stand between people and the love which is at the heart of all things.

2. Uncertain times call for boldness and clarity from the church. Now, more than any time in the last ten or so years, our culture is directly asking questions to which the Christian faith has meaningful responses. Where is security to be found? What is the nature of genuine leadership and authentic power? How do people recover from failure, loss, and disappointment? How can we find meaning when the things we trusted don’t deliver what they promised? What makes for a healthy, whole life–and a healthy, whole society? The way of Jesus has answers to these questions, and his followers have an opportunity to reclaim his wisdom and offer it to the world. We need to find our voices and say, with conviction and compassion, that his truth is liberating and grounding.

There are some other things rattling around in my mind and heart: the connection between divine and human creativity; the enigma of human resistance to change, especially change we say we want; and the essential place of silence, reflection, rest, prayer and play in
a joyful and sustainable life.