Here we are at the start of a new year, 2008. Once again, we embraced the celebration of Christmas - the sights, the sounds, the aroma of a season filled with holiday magic. I don't know of another time of year when we give such priority to setting aside the busyness of our everyday lives to relax and enjoy each other. Oh, we're involved beforehand with countless preparations; but then we settle down to be still and soak up the spirit that surrounds us. We quiet our minds and hearts as we encounter love, in its truest sense, and reflect on the reason for this celebration - God's amazing gift of love. It's a time of joy as we come together to celebrate. That's one of my favorite aspects of the season just passed: we come together. We wish each other well. We take time to consider our blessings; and we share from our hearts with those in need. We spend time with our families and friends. We share favorite recipes with neighbors. We work the mail carriers overtime delivering our greetings to special people in our lives. Now the holiday season has come to a close as the sounds and lights have faded. We've met each other at the stores, buying containers to store the decorations that adorned our yards and living rooms. One look around tells us the magic of the season has disappeared: Santa has left the mall. Oh, he's kind and jolly, and we enjoy bending his ear to share our wishes for Christmas morning surprises. But now that the packages have been opened we realize that Santa's holiday magic lasts only for a moment. As quickly as he comes, he's gone. It's the true meaning of the season that lingers in our minds and our hearts, offering peace and hope, not only for a day, but for an eternity. It's that part of Christmas we want to hold onto as we now step into a new year. With a collective sigh, we've packed away memories from one year and are preparing for this new one before us. We've sorted through the decorations, carefully boxing up those things to be enjoyed during Christmases to come, and discarding the worn wrappings, burned candles, and broken ornaments. We'll need to clear out the clutter in our closets to make room for those treasures that will remain; and we need to let go of those things that are not of value. As this new year begins, we realize not only do we need to have our house in order, we need to make certain our minds and hearts are ready for the experiences ahead. Perhaps there are keepsakes that need to be carefully tucked away in the closets of our heart for future seasons - memories to be cherished, traditions to be passed on, family history to be shared. Reflecting on the past year, we may also find things to discard, clutter that's been in our way. Hurts. Disappointments. Failures. Conflicts. Obstacles that keep us tied to the past. Broken relationships to be repaired. Clutter that takes up space in our minds and hearts where peace and joy could reside. Is there unfinished business we need to resolve? Whatever our past, whatever our journey, we need to consider what we'll carry with us into this new year and the attitude we'll embrace as we move forward. There are things I need to preserve and others things to set aside because I want to carry HOPE with me into the days ahead. Not the brief moment of wishful thinking that Santa encourages, but rather assurance that the beliefs I hold at the center of my spirit will carry me through - whatever the future brings. I want to make certain I have taken time to clear out the clutter that might hold me back, as I embrace the new year. I'm looking forward to a fresh start. As you now step out into 2008, what will you carry with you? I pray it will be the opportunity for a fresh start and a year filled with God's richest blessings - His joy, His faithfulness, His mercy and grace, His everlasting love, and His peace. Happy New Year!

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