A new year dawns with streaks of fire-coloured light. A new year gathers itself up to spring forward, like a great cat about to pounce. This particular day marks not only the first day in a new year, it is also the day I return to my little cottage in the mountains.
I have missed the sunshine and fresh air. I have missed my routine and schedule. I missed getting to eat what I want, when I want it (cilantro!). I longed for mountains and activity - especially hiking. I missed my job and my friends and my church. But I enjoyed holding my niece and chasing my nephew around the yard until we were both winded and frozen. I enjoyed the smell of a wood fire - and its warmth on my stiff fingers. I introduced my Dad to a book I enjoy while I was home... I think I liked it better than he did, but it was delightful to read it aloud together. I enjoyed going for walks with my mom and washing a lot dishes together (many times). I had a great time shooting a few different guns with my brother-in-law. My sisters and I enjoyed spending an evening with our cousin, eating Mexican food and looking at books in Barnes and Noble. There was the delight of the 'freshness of deep down things' –earth and rain- and the smell of winter wind... And it was all good. But it is good to be home, too.
Today, as I think about coming home and all the joys that go with that, I realise that it is the eighth day since Christmas, the day of Jesus' circumcision. "And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb." (Luke 2:21) Circumcision was an ancient custom that set the Hebrew people apart, marked them as different. A custom that we still carry on today, not in cutting the flesh (baptism is the sign we now use), but of the heart, cutting away sin and decay. This marking of the flesh, and for us, of our hearts, is a sign that we belong to God's family. So we see that Jesus belonged to God's people from the very beginning of His sojourn on earth.
It is not a coincidence that when a child was circumcised he was also named. This marking and naming go hand in hand. It is a coming home of sorts, saying that one is accepted into God's people, and he is named, or cared for. Because when we care about a thing, we often name it... But more truly, when we name something, we take greater responsibility for it. That is why God had Adam name the animals in Genesis - he took responsibility for them and authority over them, as God had directed.
When someone takes responsibility for us, when they are willing to take the penalty of us breaking the oath, and when they invite us to be their own special people, it is good. It is a coming home in a very 'other' but similar kind of way as when I walked into my own cabin tonight. It is being somewhere protected, safe, and cosy. It is being part of something bigger than yourself. It is being in a place that takes a lot of elbow grease and hard work. Daily disciplines are much like the washing dishes, fixing leaky roofs, and planting the garden of our spiritual 'home.' Jesus took on flesh and made His dwelling, His home, among us... And He shone with the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And He made a way for us to be home with Him, by removing our sin from us and making us the righteousness of God.
And as the first day in the new year fades from a blazing orange and golden sunset, there is the sense of being home, even in this new year. And it is good...