When I got to be old enough to make (somewhat questionable) decisions on my own, I started trying to stay up and watch the sun rise on New Year's Day. For the most part, the folks I had spent the previous evening with would have celebrated themselves all the way into bed during the wee hours, and most mornings I was the only one still up. After the headlong rush of the holiday season, and the fireworks and champagne frenzy on New Year's Eve, the dawn was a refreshing change of pace.
In traditional Japanese architecture there is a special place in the home called a tokonoma. This alcove is set aside to display a carefully selected item, often a calligraphic scroll, an arrangement of flowers or plants, or occasionally some small objets d'art. The object in the tokonoma is changed several times a year (certainly more often than we Americans tend to update our decor) and the sense of mutability or lack of permanence is as an important part of the display as the item itself. That way, the display does not fade into the background and continually calls for attention and reflection.
For me, solitary New Year's sunrises were a tokonoma of sorts: a chance to take a moment to just appreciate the beauty of a new beginning. All too often we pack away the sense of waiting and wonder we strive to cultivate during Advent when we put our ornaments and decorations away. The continuing miracle of Christmas is not merely left in the manger, to be wrapped up and brought out of storage some time next Fall. We are changed by the birth of Hope, and challenged to carry it with us in our lives. This New Year, I hope you have occasion to reflect on the hope you carry withing, and the ways you can share that with others.