That’s what he said. January first. It’s just another day—the one right after December thirty-first. It’s simply the next day. We make such a big deal out of it all. It’s not a big deal. It’s just another day. I suppose he’s right. The way we mark our days is based on three astronomical events. One day, from sunrise to sunrise, is one complete rotation of Earth. One month, approximately 29.53 days, is one orbit of the moon around the earth. And one year, 365.24 days, is one orbit of Earth around the sun. Since the numbers aren’t clean, our calendars are kind of wonky. I consulted an astronomer. It’s complicated. Our years are actually never the same length. Last year (which we thought would never end) was 365.242190 days. The year 1900 was 365.242196. The year 2100 will be 365.242184 days. So this year can actually be minutes longer or shorter than last year. It’s because other planets are throwing their gravitational force at us.
So the first day of January is no ordinary day. It has been marked. Marked by the movements of Earth and Moon, but also by the creatures living under the moon. We know the ritual. When the sun sets on the last day of December, we close the door on 365.24 days—give or take a few minutes. Human creatures, hands gripping doorknobs, will remember those minutes and days. Some memories will be so sharp that the counting of seconds is possible. It is often a ritual of joy. We remember meaningful steps. We realize specific dreams. We laugh at welcome surprises. But we also remember and grieve the loss. We regret the failures. We lament the disappointments. We cross the threshold and look back through the opening, hearts full of both gratitude and repentance—and we turn into the arms of Grace. We also know that as the one door closes, the next one opens. We step into the breeze of a new day, eyes alert to the horizon and hearts beating in ways that betray our excitement and our fear. The winds of change are inevitable. But because it is marked, we can walk into the day with hope.
I watch a powerful five-minute video every week, and I am deeply moved each time I watch it. Brother David Steindl-Rast says, “Do you think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you. Today. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life, and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well. Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open—to that incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us—for pure enjoyment. Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment with clouds coming and going. Open your eyes look at that. Look at the faces of people you may meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face. Not only their own story but the story of their ancestors—all that life from generations and from so many places all over the world—flows together and meets you here like life-giving water if you only open your heart and drink. Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch and there is electric light. Turn a faucet and there is warm water and cold water and drinkable water—a gift that millions and millions in the world will never experience. And so, I wish that you would open your heart to all these blessings, and let them flow through you. Let everyone whom you will meet on this day be blessed by you. Just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then it will really be a good day.” –A Grateful Day, https://www.youtube.com/watch?