Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
It is difficult to believe that it is already November and the end of the year is fast approaching. As we approach the end of the year, our thoughts turn to wrapping-up unfinished business, closing out accounts, concluding uncompleted projects and saying farewell; we also think about the time of harvest and the coming of winter. November brings the end of the church year and thoughts of the end times. Our thoughts also turn to those who have died and our own eventual deaths. We naturally reflect upon our lives by recalling both joys and sorrows, accomplishments and regrets, blessings and sins. It is a time of personal reform or improvement, an idea carried over from our old Jewish roots and traditions. Let us explore—the process begins with Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, which focuses on repentance and return, of repairing relationships as forgiveness is asked of God and one another. Prayer and alms giving are also a part of the work of restoration.
On Yom Kippur, the day of Cleansing or Atonement, the slate between each person and God is wiped clean; then follows Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, a celebration of thanksgiving for the harvest and a reminder of both poverty and abundance. Sukkot symbolizes everyone’s vulnerability to the forces of nature, especially that of the homeless and poor. Present day Sukkot offers hospitality to others, enjoys the fruits of harvest and celebrates God’s continued providence for mankind.
All the preparation and rejoicing over the impermanent things of the world alludes to what is truly eternal and important—life eternal with our God. This preparation brings one to the end of the journey, to the gathering in and storing away, to the time of harvesting, reckoning and thanksgiving.
Spiritually we take measure of our own lives, what we have produced—our fruitfulness. With what spiritual resources will we face death? When death comes, will it find us among the sheep or the goats? Where have our choices led us? Which side are we on?
The Scripture passages pull us back to our baptismal reality: In baptism, our old life died and we received new life. Baptism washes us with grace, clothes us in the garment of salvation—we put on Christ, and leads us into a genuine loving new life.
Thanksgiving is the theme of November, these last weeks, and blessedness is the vision. We see ourselves as part of a great multitude from every nation—all tribes, peoples and languages. There is no counting of this multitude; it is beyond all computation. We see the many and varied blessings of God; each saint is unique and irreplaceable.
When Christ comes in glory, He will invite the faithful into His inheritance, giving food and drink, shelter and understanding, gifts of time and attention, comfort and respect. We all have the opportunity to serve, with our unique talents and gifts from God, by sharing our harvest.
November begins with the celebration of All Saints, our remembrance in gratitude of all who have gone before us and touched our lives in many different ways. We are thankful for the harvest of memories, the legacy passed down and the blessings of those beloved saints.
The church year ends with the festival of Christ the King and our hope of sharing in the richness and glories of God, our inheritance among the saints in God’s eternal peace.
May God richly bless you in your reformation and thanksgiving,