2017 was a rough year for many people. People said the same thing about 2016, but I think some things got worse. It might be that the uber-wealthy will get more tax breaks and the poor will lose more services. Many of my friends were not able to afford basic health care this year. Some of my friends’ children tried to commit suicide. A 16-year-old shot and killed two other 16-year-olds around the corner from where I live. Many people died of opiate drug overdoses. The earth keeps trying to adjust to years of overconsumption and abuse but the hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and wildfires keep coming. Politics divide people everywhere, and technology hasn’t seemed to actually unify people in spirit and purpose.
In the midst of all of the sorrow and uncertainty, Mary has me making a gratitude list today. Her exuberant praise to God is remarkable in light of her circumstances and ours. Maybe it was because she was such an “under-resourced” person that she could recognize the wildness of what God was doing: making a way through the wasteland of poverty to attend to our hearts, to lift up the lowly, and to restore all of creation. No wonder she said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior!” God was coming in flesh to be our peace, and God is still here through his people. Not just in our hopes and dreams and plans for the future but what has actually happened this year in spite of all we face.
So here’s the start to my gratitude list. Want to keep it going with your own toasts to 2017 in the comments?
- Circle Thrift already passed over a million dollars in sales this year. Most of these profits go around the world to the areas of most need.
- We bought a beautiful building on South Broad Street. Last year at this time I was joking to my extended family that what I wanted for Christmas was a building for our church to meet in. I did not imagine that we’d actually get one at the exact price I named, just 3 blocks from where I live! It’s already been a place for many to find comfort and hope through our Sunday meetings, ESL classes, 12-step groups, grilling on the street, theatre and music.
- New babies.Theo Ethan, Abel Winston, Martin Homer, Huxley Emmanuel, and Londyn Marie became regular attenders of our South Broad congregation.
- We started Circle Kids playschool! What a joy to see the little ones playing and learning with our wonderful director, Gail, throughout the week.
- The Solidarity Beyond Borders team got moving. We are partnering with the New Sanctuary Movement to provide practical support to immigrants and refugees here in the city. We sent a representative to walk the Migrant Trail along our southern border in solidarity with those who have lost or are separated from family members by the wall.
- The Circle Mobilizing Because Black Lives Matter team raised almost 5K to bail black mothers and fathers out of prison before the holidays this year.
- We welcomed 49 partners into our covenant. this year with some joyous feasting
- 8 cells multiplied and 5 were planted from scratch. God keeps empowering us to love and include.
- Our newest congregation got rolling in the Northwest. Julie and Jerome and their partners overcame some big hurdles to get established. We all survived the birth and grew up in faith a little more.
Can you add to the list? None of this is meant to put rose-colored glasses on the horror we face, either. Totalitarian leaders, greed, and violence are wrecking the planet. People are lonely, anxious, depressed, and dying. Many are discriminated against and oppressed. But in the midst of it all, I see people drawing strength from the source of life, re-birthing a new generation of givers to respond to the mess with self-giving love and unity. So I agree with the prophets that the Light is here and coming. I understand John the Baptist that saying that Jesus makes his joy complete even in his uncertainty. And I can rejoice with Mary that God sees us and has not left us alone.
So let’s hold on to some hope this Advent, that God can do more than we ask or imagine.
-Rachel Sensenig, writing