On January 1, my family and I participated in the annual “First Day Walk” at Curt Gowdy State Park. About 100 hikers joined in the almost two mile hike.
The weather was close to perfect: bright sun, relatively warm temperatures, only a light breeze.
As we gathered outside the visitors’ center, the park superintendent gave some helpful instructions, and then off we went, our guide leading the long line of walkers as we snaked our way up and down small hills, around shallow ravines and large boulders, through ankle-deep snow in spots and bare dirt patches in others. At the halfway mark, as we began our turn for home, our guide indicated a cutoff where you could add another two miles. We chose not to go the extra route. (Only for reasons of time, of course.)
The event was a wonderful group experience.
One could put on theological spectacles and view our walk as a metaphor for the Christian life. Which is to say: We walk through our lives with others as our companions and Jesus as our guide. Staying on the trail, in all its ups and downs and twists and turns, will bring us safely home. But even if we lose our way, or make a wrong turn now and again, Jesus the Good Shepherd will rescue us.
But maybe a better metaphor for our New Year’s Day hike is this: Each day as God’s children is a new day, a “First Day.” No matter what burdens or sins we carry from our past, each day offers a new start—a day to begin life anew as forgiven children of God. God promises that in baptism.
Remember your baptism daily, Martin Luther wrote, for the baptismal promises of forgiveness, hope, and new life bring hope to each day. A “First Day” awaits you. Rejoice!
Don Holmstrom is a pastor of the ELCA, having served most recently at First Lutheran Church in St. Peter, Minnesota. He also writes novels, hymn texts, and musicals for youth. He’s a native of Texas, husband of Rachel Larson, father of Susanna Holmstrom, caretaker of Dooley the dog.