• Shanley McConnell

Devotion: Saying Goodbye to Christmas & New Year in 2 Diary Entries

Updated: Jan 5

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you set in place, what is man you are mindful of him?

--- Psalm 8:3 -- 4




Diary Entry: 22 Dec 2020


Aligning with the Winter Solstice, on the 21 December, Saturn and Jupiter neared 0.1 degrees in distance to form a "double planet." This was the first time in nearly 800 years when these two planets drew close to one another in what is known as a Great Conjunction.


Conjunction, def.

  • a word used to connect clauses or sentence (and, but, if)

  • an alignment of two planets or other celestial objects appearing in the same, or nearly the same, place in the sky


Years ago, over a small, cavern-like stable, the sky welcomed the Greatest Conjunction. The Star of Bethlehem, woven as through the branches of an invisible tree, poured out its radiance over the city in night. It's boughs and willowy limbs shone with the brightness of a greater Light --- one that had not been overshadowed, only softened by the blindness of human eyes. How it beckoned the shepherds, the wise men looking, the kings and religious leaders:


Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For there is born to you, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.

---- Luke 2: 8 - 20.


The Greatest Conjunction lay, breathing and beautiful, very much born of God in the flesh. A child who would bring communion between God and man. It was this child, who was with God in the beginning. The Word with God, the Word who was God. Who from all things were made. The light of all mankind.


The Greatest Conjunction slept in the manger. Heaven's glory in the humbled form of a baby. He was who the prophets foretold would never be overcome by darkness (John 1: 1 -5). A son who would grow in wisdom and favor with God and man (Luke 2:52), who would speak to the darkness and call forth the fullness of life: Lazarus, Jairus' Daughter, the young man, the blind, the sick, the crippled and possessed, you. Eternity in the peripheral of earthly miracles.


I am the Light of the World. He who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but receive the Light of Life (John 8:12).

This boy, who was the Light of the World, called to a blind world and brought it close so that all might behold the compassion and promises of God's living Word (John 3: 17 - 21). He knelt at the knees of great pharisees and religious leaders, listened intently and answers the mysteries of God. His sacrifice saves us, not because of works done in our own righteousness, but in the mercy and renewal of his holiness and Spirit (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2: 8 - 9).



On the darkest night of the year, in the year of our Lord 2020, our solar system opens on a cosmic horizon: the two largest planets Jupiter and Saturn aligned majestically over a world broken with cultural divides, prejudice, wildfires, unemployment, drone strikes, a devastating pandemic that closed communitites on international levels.


For a long while, my grandfather, grandmother and I stand in the grass waiting for the planets to align. The dew and foliage catch in our sandals. Our eyes -- brown and blue -- surface the sky like birds with long, fluttering wings. Betta fish swimming beneath the scintillate rim of sea. We count our days, the clockwork nature: monday to monday in quarantine. Little hands minute the hours. Most days, we miss the routines of our past. The effort, industry and adrenaline. Now, with the lockdowns and upgraded Tier 4s, we have been given time we did not want or know we needed.


We realise how lonely, insecure or worthless we feel without the success and momentum of our busy distractions. The quality of having much to do is not a fault. It is precious in its own way, drawing us closer to the nature of God in diligence and committed work. But when we correlate our value with physical achievements or the ability to accomplish much in minimal time, we belittle the primary reason for birth:


To worship, and sing with the angels: Glory to God in the Highest. Glory and Amen.

Worship is a Shepherd with emptied, open hands or the Magi with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Worship is a long, arduous road where the Star of David guides one through uncertainty and unknown -- through valleys of death to pastures of green.


"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things. If we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. A being within ourselves to bring to life."

--- anonymous poet


We gaze at these bright friends of the moon. Under the velvet kaleidoscope of night, their presence seemed so secure and moving. We are moved by the soft pace --- how their heavenly bodies dance at speeds of wild, orbital velocities. But we see them slowly. The way God sometimes moves in us, gentle and with great, often unheard tempos. We watch in awe of the beautiful above.


The Polish-born American Rabbi of the 20th century Abraham Heschel wrote: "awe is a way of understanding." Looking up at the celestial bodies, we marvelled at their nearness. The eight hundred years of time and distance between them. And we realise that the wondrous miracle of Emmanuel (God with Us) is neither concealed nor hidden. It is Jesus coming to reveal the heart of his Father.


Diary Entry: 4 Jan 2021


Many weeks have come since Christmas. Decorations have begun to disappear: wrapped in soft tissue, packed in cardboard and carried to the attic. Maybe the tree, drooping in its dying age, remains behind the windowsill. Maybe it lifts its branches one last time - the ornaments sparkle on the boughs as though the wonder of a season in passing brightens with goodbye. The New Year has arrived.


I wonder if we treasure the ceremony of New Years because it represents a tangible change. After a year where our calendars were bare, routine and unused, the new page is a comfort.


The lockdowns and pandemic regulations brought immutability to our 2020. We overturned long, unforeseen standstills of winter hibernation with every month. In the spring seasons too.


God is also changeless. The plans of his heart stand forever, for all generations (Psalm 33:11). He demonstrates his unchangeable character to those who believe in him - the heirs of his purposes - with an oath: that by two unchangable things: in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us (Hebrews 6:17-18).


That we are given a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. A hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever (19-20).


My dear friends, I pray this for you


May we invite the Holy Spirit to come, heal and renew the innermost places of our hearts and minds (2 Cor 4;16). May our prayer be to see and behold the presence of God with his Spirit inside. Transforming things we cannot see with our senses. May our understanding and vision of God materialise from the shadows we only felt in the past. May our approach to 2021, to the pandemic, to the self and governmentally regulated isolation, be one of gentleness and compassion - an overflow of the selflessness nature of Christ in us - given to ourselves and all we come in contact with.


May we be moved by the revelation of God ---- in the sky, in the stars ---- from our windows, our backgardens, our screens online ---- and behold Christ with open hearts and minds.