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Start the year with the Holy Spirit

Dove symbolizes Holy Spirit

The Rev. Paul Perez says, “I’m not a fan of January.” He turns to scripture and finds words of grace that lift the spirit. “You are one of God’s beloveds and nothing can separate God from what God loves.”

PAUL PEREZ
Director of Connectional Ministry, Michigan Conference

It got cold this week in my part of Michigan. The temperatures dropped as the wind picked up speed. The upstairs corner room that is my home office is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I layered up in my thickest sweater and donned my warmest socks as I hunkered down for a week of work. It really felt like January this week.

I’m not a fan of January. Christmas is over and weeks of cold stand between the Spring and me. It is a time when I find myself turning inward, reflecting on the past year, and looking forward to the next. Such introspection can be energizing and exciting. It can also be a bit overwhelming as I think of the things left undone in the past year and all that needs to be done in the coming year.

In this season of “year-end retrospectives” and “new year resolutions,” I’m thankful for the lectionary. Last Sunday was “Baptism of the Lord” in the church’s traditional liturgical year. This story is so important for the first Christians that it appears, in very similar forms, at the beginning of all four gospels. In each gospel, Jesus’s baptism by John in the Jordan marks the beginning of his public ministry. Each version describes the Holy Spirit descending like a dove on Jesus as he rises from the waters. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recount a voice from the heavens calling Jesus “beloved.”

In terms of the gospel narrative, Jesus has not done anything yet. He is just getting started. He has no track record or accomplishments or lengthy resume. He hasn’t even laid out his plan or resolved to achieve impressive goals. Jesus does not have to prove himself. He is simply named and claimed as God’s beloved.

What a word of grace. In fact, I don’t know about you, but this is the word of grace I need during this cold winter week. I need to be reminded of my baptism, receive again the promise of the descending Spirit, and hear the truth that I am one of God’s beloveds.

So, during this bleak midwinter, when frosty wind makes you moan, I hope you remember your baptism. Know the Holy Spirit rests on you like the persistent bird boldly building a nest where it has no business being but is too stubborn to let anyone stop it. Because you are one of God’s beloveds and nothing can separate God from what God loves.

Whether in moments of picture-perfect snowfall or the harshness of a deep freeze, God says to each of us: There is nothing you can do to earn any of this. It is a gracious gift from me to you. You don’t have to prove yourself, accomplish anything, or please the right people. You don’t even need a fancy plan, eloquent vision, or New Year resolutions. Your worst moments, biggest mistakes, missed deadlines, shortcomings, failures can’t undo it. You are my beloved.