At this point it feels like January goes on forever, the sunny days hidden behind clouds as far as the eye can see. It's only cold enough to snow when there's no precipitation; the rain mocks you at 40 degrees. Always winter, never Christmas (at least Christmas seems pretty far behind in the rearview mirror). It's just the time of year I'm starting to love.
The reason I love it is I'm convinced that God does, too. It's not the season with the long windup. Instead it's a time of the year where maybe we don't expect so much, meaning it's full of God's possibility, not ours. The gray sky is like a blank canvas upon which God can paint.
There's a story in the Gospel of John that plays with our expectation of just such a time. Jesus goes to a wedding in the town of Cana and, problem of problems, they have run out of wine. Mary senses that something is up, and tells Jesus about the problem. Strangely, Jesus seems not to care, indicating that "my hour has not yet come." It's not time.
We don't know what happened to change his mind; but all of a sudden Mary has gotten the attention of the steward and put Jesus in position to accomplish the first of his major miracles in the Gospel of John. "Do whatever he tells you," she says. Jesus gets the servants to pour water into stone jars: "fill it up." When they draw it out it has become wine.
This is it. This is the moment. This is the time when Jesus takes it upon himself to transform the most basic, mundane things he could encounter into a sign of God's grace and love breaking into the world -- like a gray, January day blooming into spring. A simple drink at a wedding becomes a testament to the God who will change people, change culture, change history through the person of Jesus.
This is the point at which ordinary time becomes an artificial construct because there is no ordinary time in the presence of God. Every act, every life, no matter how mundane, how mired in routine or the business or stuff of life, can all of a sudden be changed into an announcement that God loves the world and reveal nothing less than the glory and the presence of God in the midst of ordinary life. The only ingredient needed to change water into wine is the grace of God.
It makes you wonder: if God can do this with a little water, and a little wine, what can God do with you?
Maybe you know what it's like to live an ordinary life. You know what it's like to wake up in the morning and prepare yourself for the same thing you have done a hundred, a thousand, several thousand times. You eat your breakfast, you have your coffee. You drive to work in the rain and go about your business.
Or you do your volunteer work that may not change the world but needs to be done because really -- who else would take on the office chores that you would? Or maybe you just spend your morning doing the laundry that always seems to pile up and never end.
Or there is another stack of school papers for you to grade. Or the dishwasher is broken again and you have to spend all morning waiting on the repair man. Or you have your dental cleaning scheduled. Or you remember that it's that time of the year to start getting your tax documents together again.
Or you need to get the car serviced. Or you need to pay that bill. Or go to that school function. Or send that get-well card. Or do any of myriad things you do all the time, and enough that you wonder what difference it makes.
What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things, measured against the world's problems and the desperate need that lives right around the corner from you?
And then you hear a voice, not so much audible, but something from inside you. It says, "do whatever he tells you." Then you know -- that the things you do aren't so much ordinary but filled with the potential of God's grace. Maybe your life is nothing more than an empty vessel to which God says "fill it up" -- even in January.
Will Scott is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dalton. His column appears the fourth Friday of the month.