WRITTEN BY: Cathie Ostapchuk
Sometime between the close of Christmas celebrations and the dawn of a New Year comes either a feeling of anticipation for all that awaits, or a sense of dread. We can try to resist, kicking and screaming, the turning of the calendar page that will find us in the start of a new year of days, weeks and months, but change is coming, impervious to our cries for the clock to turn back.
Some of us are looking forward to welcoming a new calendar year, because we innately believe in new beginnings, new resolutions, new goals, and new opportunities to grow spiritually, personally and professionally.
The desire to stay and beg for more time in this current year comes from the realization that we didn’t have enough days to finish what we started, to mend broken relationships, to reflect and process, to heal, to rest, and to make decisions about our future. Where did the year go?
The days between Christmas and January 1 are a gift given as a holy pause and an opportunity to linger, suspended in the wake of all that we have experienced, knowing that there will be a moment when it is time to stand up, look up and move forward.
In music, this holy pause is called a fermata: a sign placed above the last note of a song as an indication to hold that note until the conductor brings the baton down and the music ends before a new melody can begin.
For Gather Women, this fermata carries in it both gratitude for all that God has done in our midst over the last months and holy anticipation of all He wants to do in the year ahead.
Keri, a dear friend of Gather wrote the following reflection on what Gather has meant to her and her next generation daughters, and how it relates to the celebration of Christ in our midst:
“At Christmas people gather – as families, as friends, as work colleagues, around meals, for Santa pictures, at malls, at markets – all GOOD reasons to gather!
But God, Jesus who became flesh, loved us enough to enter our world to once and for all, forever and ever, for all of eternity and without end so that we could be GATHERED to Him. What a precious promise. The day when we will all GATHER at His feet and worship in His presence… it is our hope.
That very first Christmas, shepherds and wise men were drawn by angelic announcements and by light to gather. Light... a source of comfort. A source of welcome. A source of safety. A source of hope. Her hope. Your hope. Our hope.
‘Come home when the street lights turn on, we will leave the porch light on’, said most parents in our generation to their children. In Christ, God has given us an eternal porch light, always waiting for us to come home.”
We want to thank you, daughters of this nation, and His beloved, for being a light in the darkness for many women who live in the shadows, and for those who live in bright lights. For those that already gather and for those who long to gather with their sisters. Thank you for lighting the way for all women to gather. Thank you for taking risks and being light in the darkness of our world. It only takes the smallest flicker of light to dispel the darkness.
Our holy pause is one of gratitude for all of you seeking hope and bringing hope into your spaces of mission and in your small and large platforms and spheres of influence. God was truly in our midst this past year as the light and voice and presence of women who follow Christ shone brighter and was heard with louder proclamation.
Dagmar Morgan-Sinclair expressed this so beautifully in our Gather Rise Manifesto:
We, who gather as the one, the few, the many
We, who stand together arms locked, hands folded,
and knees bent before our Saviour
We, women who dare to be fireworks that bring light to darkness
We, women who Rise like hands in holy worship
We, women who will not settle until all women RISE
Rise with a righteous strength that goes beyond reason
Rise with a love that is beyond fathom
Rise with each other, for each other
We gather and together we RISE.
As we head into a New Year, we are sensing that God is calling us to go deeper into the mystery of Emmanuel, God with us. We wonder at His mercy. We wonder at His grace – and as the fermata lifts and our new song begins in 2019, we invite you to step into the wonder with us.
Let our lights shine brighter and be the porch light for women wandering in the dark.
May our collective voices reflect the anthem of freedom and grace that only Christ can bring.
May we equip leaders, and those who are to influence the generations to follow.
May we go into the shadows and the fringes to invite women to the table of sisterhood.
May we love justice and act on its behalf, even if, and especially if, it costs us.
May we be catalysts and encouragers in our local churches, serving well, and flourishing alongside men.
May we live our calling in the body of Christ and honour those who are gifted and called to teach and preach the word of God, men and women alike.
We love you, women in this nation – diverse and beautiful, each of you. You have been planted here for this time in history. And we want to move forward with you with joyful and hope-filled anticipation into a new refrain of wonder in the year ahead.
Let us Gather. The one. The few. The many.