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By Bishop Todd Townshend

Sometimes we go about our work in the church and everything seems to be withering on the vine. Other times, with the same level of effort and commitment, nothing really different on our part, there seems to be an outpouring of newness. Sometimes we are visited by an abundance of new life.

It simply comes to us. We don’t conjure it up, it is a gift. It is a result of what God is doing much more than about what we are doing.

In the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany, newness is revealed whether people seek it or not. A little baby comes into the world and the world is a different place—for the parents, especially—and the future of this person is unknown. Yet, it is real, it is new, and it is full of possibility. When that child is Jesus, the one in whom God becomes flesh, there is no limit to the kind of “new” that is possible.

It is clear, however, that not everyone saw the birth of Jesus as a good, new thing. Starting with Herod. He knew something about newness; it can be very threatening.

I spoke about this as part of our annual Synod in September, saying that God’s promise to “make all things new” is one of the most unsettling and downright controversial themes in the life of faith. God’s creative work alters our plans and our preferences. Thanks be to God!

So, the act of faith involved in responding to God’s new activity is to remember that Jesus chose to bear our suffering as a sign of God’s deepest love for us and for all. Anything new has to be, ultimately, for our benefit and for the benefit of those who suffer. God’s newness is good news for the poor, the weak, the sick, and those who are alone. The gift and the task for us is to watch for signs of this newness, to recognize it for what it is, and to cultivate and nourish it to maturity.

Newness will come to us in this new year. May it be God’s blessing to you now and throughout the year of our LORD, 2021.