A Word for 2021 (and a few more words, in reflection and expectation)

At the start of this new calendar year, I wonder what to hold onto, what to focus on.  My email inbox is full of tools and tips.  My planner’s pages are mostly empty.  

I did not live the last year perfectly or always gracefully— there were plenty of times that my light flickered and wavered with turbulent emotions, stress, conflict, fear, selfishness, frustration.  I spent a lot of time in questioning complaint.  Yet the light of God’s goodness was constant, if sometimes hidden from my eyes by storm clouds.  

Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash

There are many ways (so many ways) that I hope to grow this year, so many facets of roles and responsibilities that are parts of my life that I hope to develop in.  I want to be more consistent in my time with God, to rush less, to greet people with wonder and attention, to be physically healthy, to make space for mental health and to be wise about taking time to breathe (especially when those around me are struggling).

But my attention and energy always has to be focused on a singular priority if I am to move and not end up scattered and exhausted.  My mom wrote about choosing a word for the new year; I generally feel like I’m given a word, that God answers my asking for what I need with focus.

So here it is: κεχαριτωμένη.

It is, admittedly, a difficult word to translate well.  The traditional Latin rendering offers gratis plena; English translations of this word that Gabriel used to address the Virgin Mary include highly favored and full of grace.

To see and know myself as God does, to know that the grace I’m filled with isn’t something inherent to my own nature or a fruit of my own effort — it is itself an extravagant gift of God.  This year, I want to cultivate my awareness that I am (like Mary) a finite vessel who gets to, somehow, bear infinity — God’s deep, deep love, grace, and peace filling me and flowing out of me.

On the last and most important day of the festival,

Jesus stood up and cried out, 

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.

The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said,

Will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

He said this about the Holy Spirit.

—from John 7:37ff

Although I’ve thought about Mary before, wondered about her background and feelings and thoughts, the last few months have really left her lingering in my consciousness, and I’m curious to see how God continues to unfold this word in my heart and life in the coming months.  It never plays out how I expect it to in January.  (I was also pretty intrigued to see that I’m not the only one considering Mary this season — my friend Esther recently wrote a lovely reflection over on her blog.)

What about you?  Any particular hopes, expectations, themes, reflections for the year to come or as you look back on 2020?  For some of us, it was a rollercoaster of a year with high highs and low lows; for some it seemed to be smooth enough, and for many it was nothing short of traumatic.  No matter how you feel coming into 2021, I’m glad you’re here.  Glad that we get to step into a new year together to behold God’s glory and grace.  


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