happy new year?

I just sent out this short note to the many friends and family who have encouraged and supported us in the retreat work here:

We've learned not to expect anything new on New Year's day. Besides a couple different numbers at the end of the date, not much is going to change. And after all the expectation of the Advent season, Christmas usually doesn't produce anything significantly new, either.

But we should remember it wasn't that way the first Christmas.

Jesus' birth was the beginning of something never before seen. Something long awaited and desperately hoped for. Not just a new idea, either, or a new religion. What appeared was a new life. A person who could be seen and touched, who lived a life of amazing freedom, filled with the wisdom and power of God, a life that revealed what the promised "kingdom of God" looked like. And he offered this new life to all those willing to follow him.

This life was also new in that it seemed to favor the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the outcasts. And they seemed to embrace it more readily than the wealthy, powerful, and respected people in society.

In the retreats we offer, we hope to share and nurture this new life with the poor and marginalized people in our society. And it's been a joy this past year to see our hopes beginning to be realized. We offered two retreats this past summer for groups of guys from Emmaus Ministries (which helps men getting out of prostitution) and also invited one of the men for a week-long personal retreat. That's something we want to continue to offer in the future. A group of volunteers from the Franciscan Outreach Association also came for a weekend to meet us and see the farm. We hope to soon invite retreatants from their ministry to the poor in Chicago. And we're also hoping this year to invite folks from Good News Partners, who help people transitioning out of homelessness.

Thank you for your interest, encouragement, prayers, and support in this work. We're also really grateful to God for the new beginning we have glimpsed this year. And for the amazing life of his Son, a life offered to the poor and lowly, a life that is always new wherever it appears among us.