After the hectic, hurried pace of December, I am struck by the stillness of January and now, February.
Our busiest time of the year comes to an abrupt end, and what is often the slowest part of the year just as suddenly begins. Just when we most need to stop and catch our breath, January arrives and quietly lets us. The name January itself comes from the Roman god Janus whose two faces looked behind and ahead simultaneously. January symbolically acts as a doorway—a liminal space between what was and is to come. It teaches us how to occupy the present while simultaneously looking back at how our path led us here and looking ahead to where we want to go.
The winter solstice signals the return journey of the sun, yet we must continue to await its arrival in the cold and darkness of winter. We begin the year with the feast day of Epiphany on January 6th celebrating the Magi’s gifts to Jesus, and thus the revealing of God’s plan that the incarnational light of Christ is available for Everyone. This theophany, or revelation, brings hope and faith in the exciting possibilities for the new year, but we must first begin from within before the light and love of Christ can extend out into our community.
January is the time of the year for reflecting, planning, and dreaming as we look ahead to not just a new year but a new decade. Society is quick to ask what is everyone’s “New Year’s Resolutions” for 2020; however, most modern resolutions are ego-driven and out of touch with the inward journey that winter’s stillness invites us to begin.
The cold weather teaches us how to sit with discomfort and invigorates the mind offering clarity. The quiet opens our ears and souls to intentional listening and discernment. This is a time for reflecting on quiet progress. While the skies may be gray, the trees bare, and the grass brown, Creation is not dead. It is simply incubating. Hidden growth is happening all around us, and this is the time for us to let it happen within us as well.
While reading 1 Kings 19, I am inspired by Elijah’s encounter with God. Elijah stops to rest under a broom tree, utterly exhausted. An angel came and provided him with what he needed to journey to Mt. Horeb to meet God. While Elijah is on the mountain, God came to him not in the powerful display we expect and typically associate with God’s might. God was not in the strong wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire.
God was in the whisper. In the silent stillness.
Though we are not fleeing for our lives, how often do we end December by crashing exhaustedly under the coolness of January? God provides for us too, giving us what we need for our own journey within, inviting us to find God in the silence.
When was the last time you experienced true silence? It is almost impossible to find an escape from the constant thrum of noise, and sometimes we don’t even hear the silence when we are in it due to fear of it. We constantly fill our environments and ourselves with noise, and then we fear God is absent. However, God is the absence.
I encourage you to take this time to quiet the noise around you and inside yourself, shown in Jesus’ example of self-emptying—kenosis. In that stillness, open your soul to the light of Christ and open your ears to hear God’s whisper. This inward journey of digging deep and tending to the Spirit’s strong roots within us will illuminate the incarnational light of Christ to everyone around us all the brighter.