Happy New Year!
Growing up in South Africa, I was always impressed that Africans celebrated with dance and song. As a communal people, they sure know how to celebrate. They also know how to move in rhythm and to sing with joy. As they do, you will hear long, wavering, high-pitched trilling as the tongue moves rapidly back and forth. The howl is as much a lament at funerals as it is a shrill at weddings.
Ready to get his feet wet in public ministry, Jesus stepped forward and was baptized by John in the Jordan River. As he came out dripping wet, the heavens trilled as the Spirit of God came upon him. Then a voice said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Heaven was ululating in celebration of God’s Son. A thrilling acclimation of Jesus filled his heart with affirmation, love, and joy that would carry him through days of challenge and opposition, of disappointment, betrayal, and denial. This ululating also championed him and nerved his will with robust, rigorous faith while not diminishing the tenderness and mercy of God’s love in him.
As those baptized, we step forward to engage daily life with its love, goodness, and blessings while also facing challenges, struggles, and conflicts, questioning whether we have what it takes to be faithful followers of Christ.
The new year will present many opportunities for you to show your commitment and faithfulness to Christ. Some are sure to bless you and enrich your spirit. Others will stretch and challenge you even causing you to bow low. As always, we can only prayerfully do the best we can, assured that God looks upon us with love, forgiving our shortcomings and strengthening our attempts to be the best we can be for God.
Step out into this new year listening to the ululating, the thrill that celebrates you as a daughter/son ever sure that God’s presence is with you, God’s Spirit empowers you, and that Christ infuses you with his love.
Best wishes, Graham N. West, pastor