January 2017

Why do we begin the New Year in January? Why in such a cold, barren, unforgiving time? New Year in the Jewish calendar coincides with harvest. Spring would also seem an appropriate time, with lengthening days, and the season of planting. The Roman calendar, on which ours is based, did once begin in March.

During the reign of Julius Caesar, January and February were added to reconcile lunar and solar accountings, and, for political reasons, the emperor decreed January to be the first month of the year.

It does seem appropriate, however, for 2017 to begin in the harshness of January. Thomas Hardy wrote “The Darkling Thrush,” my favorite New Year poem, at the end of the 19th century. In it, Hardy’s internal weather is mirrored by the landscape.  

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate 
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled binestems scored the sky 
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh 
Had sought their household fires. 

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I. 

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom. 

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware. 

I hope you enjoyed your holiday celebrations in safety and warmth. We need rest, and fun, and time for rejuvenation. But like me, you may be approaching the New Year with some trepidation.

This is a disturbing time. As Unitarian Universalists and people of faith, we are called to hold on to the Hope in the breast of the thrush that sings to each of us. In the year ahead, we, too, must choose to fling our souls and sing out our truths into the gloom. The paths forward are not clear. We will not all follow the same ones, and we will not all agree. We will still tend to our families, our jobs, our pastimes, our spirits, and one another. And we are called, urgently, to join with partners locally, nationally and internationally to work for justice, decency, fairness, the protection of our planet home, and the basic tenets that sustain our democracy.

We will do it together. I am humbled and grateful to be your minister.Janets signature