The Days After


JEH MacDonald, Morning After Snow, High Park  1912

–This reflection was originally published at


Advent led us to it. Christmas opened a door. And now we are here, sliding into a New Year. Again. The bustle of finishing 2019 is over. The buzz of buying, gifting, making, cooking, gathering and celebrating is mostly passed. The decorations are being packed away. Where I live in the shadow of the Rockies, there’s a settling into January. The sky seems greyer. The slushy roads a bit grittier. And the early nightfall isn’t lit by magic and twinkly lights. In January, it’s just dark.
Some years this flipping of the calendar page comes abruptly and I bemoan January’s entrance. But this year, I am welcoming it. I need the quiet ordinariness of it. After a year of loud social media, and louder election cycles, much need and a lot of cruelty, I need quiet. After a year of loud doubts, worries and facing my own incapacity to fix things, I need to hear God right here. I need to hear the quiet space that God-With-Us holds open even as I start a new year with no more answers, no new ideas, no better strategies than last year. Maybe we need to hear that it’s not just in the bubbly traditions of Christmas, or in the certainty carved from our resolutions but that the gift of God-With-Us is true in the mundane time of January’s commutes, leftovers, and dampened skies. I need to know God is With Us even in the most ordinary of days and that this IS the promise.
And so I am training my ear. To hear what IS in the ordinary.

IF God is going to be anywhere God is going to be there. In the alarm at 5:30am. In the sound of kids clumping down the stairs for breakfast. The sound of God is in the creak of the front door and the roar of the engine turning over. Is there abundant grace in the sounds of movement, commitment and the faithfulness of getting out the door on time? The sound of God is in the singing of my 7 year old and the chatter of my tween as we stop and go in January traffic. The sound of God is in the voice of my husband checking in on my day so far, in his sigh as he tells me how many meetings he has. If God is anywhere, it is in that sigh.
I am listening this year for where God With Us is present in the clacking of keyboard as I try to convey something of the mystery, beauty, justice of a loving God loving us. Oh, how I am not sure what all these words will do, but I am hearing hope even in the attempt. I am listening to God, for God, in the joys of my friends, the worries of my sibling, the questions my retired father is asking. If God is anywhere God is in the discussion about what to bring to Uncle John’s house for dinner, in the way they keep trying to show up for each other. God is in the way the birds shudder from the bush as I walk by, in the way the river tonkles along under the ice as I try to get some exercise. In the stop and go of rush hour, in the ding of a new email, in the bedtime stories, and sound of the dishwasher moving through its cycle – could these be the sounds of grace, of life not lived alone, or without purpose? Do I have ears to hear the deafening presence of the living God in the silence of ordinary life?
Advent carves us out with hope and Christmas opens up a new world, one that says “We are not left alone.” And January meets us with its ordinariness and says, even here. EVEN HERE, in the smallest lives, in the most human of details, God WILL BE KNOWN, reconciled to his creation. This is the promise of the gray, dark, day-after in January that I am longing to hear this year.

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