Breathe In, Breathe Out

January is an interesting month. On the one hand, the month is best known for its first few minutes, as folks celebrate the beginning of a new year with friends and loved ones. Those first few minutes are followed up by the New Years resolutions I mentioned in my article two weeks ago. From that point on, though, there’s not a whole lot else that happens in January. The College Football Playoff happens. Everyone takes a Monday to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But beyond that, January can feel empty in comparison to the hubbub of December.

But as the staff and I have talked about January, we’ve talked about it in a different way. We’ve referred to this month as being one in which the church gets to “take a breath.” December is a wonderful month full of music and joy and celebration, but it is also a month that is full of practices, appointments, deadlines, shopping, and events. And so January comes in to provide respite and a sense of peace. It is a moment when people can breathe deeply, get back to a sense of routine, and start looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store.

I like that idea of January as a month to take a breath because there are several moments throughout the scriptures where breathing is emphasized. The first instance, perhaps the most famous one, is in Genesis 2:7. God gently holds the sculpted figure of Adam’s body close to God’s own face and breathes the breath of life into him. It is God’s breath that gives Adam life. It is not a chaotic moment—God is not beating back forces of chaos or darkness or anything like that in order to give Adam life. No—it is an intimate moment be-tween Creator and Creation.

The other moment that comes to mind happens in Exodus 3:13-14, when Moses asks for God’s name. Moses is already on Mount Horeb and has already witnessed the burning bush. He’s received his call to go and free the people from Pharaoh. He asks God, “If the people ask me for your name, what should I tell them?” God replies with, “I AM WHO I AM.” That phrase is translated from the Hebrew word, “YHWH,” or what we say as “Yahweh.” Why bring that up? Because scholars have pointed out that saying the name, “Yahweh,” mimics the pattern of breathing in and out. Try breathing in and saying, “Yah,” followed by breathing out and saying, “weh.” The breath of God, that same breath that gives life to us all, is what defines God. It is God’s very name!

So, this January, take a breath. After all the wonderful chaos of December, take this month to breathe in deeply. Take this month to slow down and appreciate all that you’ve been given. Take this month to look forward to your future, as you consider all the possibilities 2024 holds. And remember that with every breath, God is with you. That is the depth of God’s faithfulness. With every breath, God fills your lungs with life and love and peace.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Ben