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So how many of you have made New Year resolutions? How many of you have completed any New Year resolutions? Today we begin a new year in the life of the Church as we enter once again into Advent. So, let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year! Advent is one of my favorite seasons. These next four weeks are devoted to hearing the story of preparation for the Promised One. The One who will restore hope, freedom and life to a world that yearns desperately for freedom, peace and joy. We will be immersed with the prophets of old who yearn for liberation. In a way, not much has changed. We still live in a world that yearns for new hope. Every day it seems our news feed is jammed with news of despair, violence and hatred. It is hard to imagine that in 2017 people are still persecuted for their culture or what they believe. This is why Advent, these four weeks leading up to Christmas are so important. Now is the time when we can pay attention to the cry of despair and proclaim once more the prophets message of hope, light, joy and peace. With the start of a new year, The Promised One is coming, it is time to look busy and prepare for the Word to become flesh in our world.  

With each New Year, Advent or other, we inevitably look forward to the year ahead. We dream dreams and make plans and even resolutions as to what we hope we can accomplish in the New Year. So in keeping with these traditions, I would like us to think about our New Year Resolutions for us as a church and parish community. What are our dreams for this year? What is our deepest yearning or desire for St. Martin’s? Take a moment to think about your New Year wish and resolution for St. Martin’s this year. When you are ready, write that wish down on card provided in your leaflet.  

[complete card]  

Thank you for doing that. As we all know from painful experience, so often we enter into the spirit of a New Year and our New Year resolutions with the best intentions in the world. We are almost convinced that this is going to be the year that we will get it done! But the reality is, as we know when we are honest with ourselves, commitments of any kind, New Year resolutions or other, takes dedication and work. If you are at all like me, soon into the New Year we get overwhelmed with the resolution or completely forget about them. Life picks up again and other priorities take over. I have been thinking about this, as you can tell, and I think I have discovered part of the problem to the success of our resolutions. The problem is that so often our goal or resolution is too big that it becomes overwhelming. We get lost in the detail and the scale of whatever it is we are trying to do. But fear not, because I have also found a solution to this problem.  

While our goal may be large, we need to break it down into bite size pieces. We can’t go from 0 to 100 in a single step, but we can make a first step. So the solution is, discovering what our first step, that is a bite size piece of the whole, can be. What is that one step that we can easily do, that is easy to define and will be a step towards the larger goal and resolution? Take a moment now, to think about what is the one bite size step you can take to achieve your wish or New Year’s resolution for St. Martin’s. Note this is something that you can do, not something that someone else can do. When you have thought about that first step, write it down of the reverse side of your resolution or wish.  

[complete card]  

This is important. We all have desires and wishes for the church. We all want the best for ourselves and for those we love and care about. But they will never turn to reality unless we make the first step. The first step in anything is often the hardest. Once made, the others fall into place relatively easily. As is said before, “be the change you want to be.” It begins with us; we are the ones who get to make the first move forward.  

As I have not asked you to write your name on the card, there is no way that I or anyone else can follow up on your respective first step. Your wish and resolution is between you and God. Likewise, your first step is between you and God. You and God will be the only ones who will know if you are living into your wish or resolution for St. Martin’s. Having done this exercise, you are invited to place your card in the basket that will be circulated during the offertory. These cards will be blessed and offered to God. They become, in a way, a prayer between you and God They will be a symbol of your deepest hopes for the church offered before God. We will then place these cards on a board in the Narthex as a reminder and a representation of our deepest hopes for the church. May they be so. Amen.