My father, a year before he died, said to me (I thought), “It’s amazing how fast the year goes by.”
It was late spring, and my term of teaching was closing out, so it was easy to agree. “Yes, I can’t believe it’s April already. I hardly know my students’ names.”
My mother, a few years later, offered her own observation about the passing of time. Another mother asked her, “Isn’t it wonderful, now that you have time to do all the things you want without all the demands and rush of a growing family?”
Well, at least numbering the years helps. Like birthdays and the change of seasons, the marking of a New Year invites us to remembrance and recollection. We all could learn a thing or two from that old religious practice of singing the Te Deum on December 31: a day to thank God for all the days, a moment to bless all the moments of mind and heart, breath and sight. A time to “see” and savor.
It is our celebration of Mary, the mother of God, who “treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart,” that starts our new year. And the gospel tells us of shepherds who took time to approach the mystery and wondrously saw Mary and Joseph and the child. “Once they saw, they understood.”
Even the ancient feast of the Epiphany celebrates our seeing, our witnessing of the mystery that God could take our very flesh and bones. In the light of the Incarnation, with the “showing” of God in Jesus, all is changed, all human ordinariness transformed, all of the commonplace transfigured and blessed.
A sense of how God “shows” in each day, how grace is manifest in every numbered year, allows us to take possession of our moments gently as time flashes by. We develop a richer taste for life itself, and our thanksgiving reaches deeper into our being.
If we fully enter into the revelation of Christmas, if we truly savor it and thereby savor the lives we’ve been gifted with, we may find ourselves joining the long march of witnesses, sent to all times and nations, to bestow the blessing of God that the Book of Numbers gave to us: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace.”