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New Year, New Wine

So, my partner and I don’t really fall into the category of big New Year’s Eve celebrators. We didn’t stay up until midnight, we didn’t even watch the ball drop in New York. It’s been years since we’ve celebrated with friends. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t find the changing of the year to be significant. It isn’t just turning a calendar page, it’s opening a whole brand new calendar!

There is a spiritual energy about the New Year… do you feel it? It is freshness, new beginnings, excitement, letting go of the old, anticipation, reflection, dreaming, visioning, hoping and creative.

Let’s think about all this in terms of “new wine” from Jesus' metaphor in Matthew 9:16-17.In this scripture passage, Jesus responses to the disciples of John the Baptist who ask him: “Why is it that while we and the Pharisees fast, your disciples don’t?” First, Jesus responds that it isn’t time yet to mourn or to fast. Then the author of Matthew has Jesus use a metaphor to try and get his message across. Jesus says, "One doesn’t sew an unshrunken piece of cloth onto an old cloak, nor does one put new wine into old wineskins."

Well, taken literally, if you sew an unshrunken piece of cloth over a hole or tear in an old garment, when it is washed, it will shrink and will pull away and get worse. And if you put new wine into old wineskins, the skins will burst and be ruined, because during the fermentation of new wine, it produces lots of bubbles and gasses which would cause a wineskin to expand. A new skin would be pliable and expand with it. An old skin would be harder, formed to a certain shape, more brittle, and more likely to crack.

But, I don’t think Jesus was lecturing folks on how to patch clothing or make new wine. I think he was saying, look guys, I know my ideas and methods are different and don’t fit into the old religious mindset. A new mindset is required, a new way of thinking, an openness and pliability to expand and stretch as needed. Jesus was looking for spiritual growth from his followers, growth that would bring them deeper into awareness of the divine within and around them.

This is the energy of the new year – the potential for something new, making room for new growth, opening to possibility.

We were talking about this at my creative worship group and it was suggested that not everyone wants to grow and shouldn’t feel shamed into growing. There may be some truth to this. I’m not trying to overwhelm anyone by adding another thing to your already overflowing plate. If you're not in a place to actively persue your own personal and spiritual growth, don't sweat it, simply file these thoughts away.

However, I believe it’s my role to encourage us to grow and I’d be remiss if I didn’t nudge a bit. I also believe that if you've been attending Sacred Journeys, or following us online, you’re here because you are ready for fresh wine and new wineskins. It’s my goal to try and keep moving us forward in our spiritual journeys, learning and growing. There is no end to the revelation of the spiritual and the sacred. It’s not like the Bible was written and God stopped speaking. It’s an exciting and fulfilling journey that doesn’t end.

Personally, I love the feeling of a new slate at the turn of the new year. It's the same feeling I get with a new journal and fresh markers and pens, or a freshly prepared garden with new packets of seeds and plants to put in it. They energize me and excite me. My goal is to continue to grow personally and spiritually, so that I can continue to lead all of us down roads that stretch us to be better people and connect us in more ways to the Larger Love present in life.

So, congratulations! We’ve all made it through last year. As intelligent, conscientious, thinking people, I’d encourage you (if you haven’t done it already) to spend some time reflecting on last year and thinking about the year to come. How it can be a year of positive growth for you personally and spiritually?

Looking back at the positives: what did you accomplish? What did you learn? What new experiences did you have?

Looking forward at the blank slate: what would you like to accomplish? What new experiences would you like to have? What do you want to learn?

Just like the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist, in order to move forward it makes sense to examine what might impede us from starting fresh. It would probably benefit all of us to ask ourselves what old wineskins we need to get rid of. What behaviors, ideas, theology, judgments, need for control, grudges, habits, and so forth, need to go way the wayside so we can move forward?

Here are a few suggestions to help create an energy of openness as we make way for new, creative opportunities.

1) Declutter your house and office. In Italy the tradition used to be that on the New Year people would throw out the window things they didn’t want or need any more. I’m not suggesting you do this, but there is a good feeling to cleaning out closets and filing cabinets and piles of stuff that get built up. It creates space! Someone said to me that they feel the house is thankful when we do this!

2) Voice your hopes for the new year, and make it an active hope by following through! Don’t simply say I hope to be more patient without putting the effort into it. Don’t simply say I want to lose weight without changing your habits. It must be an active hope where effort is put into achieving it. What would help you be a better person? What would fill you? Ask someone to help you be accountable when you backslide, because we all do. Find someone who will be your cheerleader and not let you give up when you backslide.

3) In some traditions the first 12 days of the year were a time to reflect on the past year and imagine what you’d like your new year to hold. New friends? A chance to learn a new skill? Spiritual growth?

A friend’s daughter has planned out one thing each month that she wants to incorporate into her life to make it better. The first month was 20 minutes a day of stretching. The second was 20 minutes of reading. But it doesn’t have to be a daily thing. Perhaps we could try for one thing a month to broaden our horizons. Make a day trip to one new place, go to one new restaurant, read one spiritual book, or participate in an outreach project. Give yourself the chance to get out of the old, comfortable, mold and habits and experience more of life. Get out of your old wineskin for a while!

May we all use the energy of the New Year to set us on a positive path of growth for the year.

May our reflections about last year not be used to beat us up, but to lead us to make healthy choices in the coming year.

May doors open for all of us that reveal the deeper mystery, magic and wonder of life all around us every day.

Love & Light!