Let’s start with the obvious – it’s 9:30 PM or so, on New Year’s Eve. So…Happy New Year! Whenever you read this, let me wish you a wondrous 2018!
That said, it’s a bit of a deja vu moment. Heard that before? Happy New Year? May the new year be a great one for you? Yep – again…here we are again. New Year’s Eve. Another year down, the next ready to roll. And the good wishes are flowing.
I checked – almost exactly 365 days ago, to the hour, I wrote a reflections. I lamented the hoopla over a new year, and all the seemingly endless – and usually unfulfilled wishes that the next year would somehow be a great one, that the turn of the calendar would the difference.
Or maybe not. So, how did 2017 work out for you? Good? Bad? Ugly? Of course, we all have our ups and downs, our good times and tough times. For most of us, we can probably make a list – the good and not so good – a bit of each. For some, 2017 might have ended up as a year to forget, or at least to leave behind as quickly as possible, hoping that 2018 will be better. And for a few, it can’t possibly be worse!
Beyond our own individual lives, there are the big issues in the world around us. The news today reported a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff lamenting that we are closer to war with North Korea than ever. Would such a war include nuclear weapons?
And then the seemingly endless parade of sexual misconduct cases impacting politics, entertainment, sports, and business. Necessary, and critical to get this out in the open, to make changes, to ensure that this comes to a stop – now! No more sweeping it under the rug, but a bummer nonetheless. We have to deal with this, but still makes for a painful and challenging time.
And then there’s the violence. Another shooting, an ambush really, of a sheriff’s deputy in Colorado.
Or the tragedy of the apartment fire in New York yesterday. Will this never end?
And how about the political climate? Republican or Democrat – or Independent, you just can’t like the atmosphere right now.
So, there you go. 2017. The year for which so many had such high hopes.
But don’t fret. There’s 2018, right on the horizon, another year in which to hope. Another year to eagerly await. Another year that will be better, because, well, it just has to be.
So what are we to do? Chalk it up to fate, and enter the year with fear and foreboding?
Hardly! No, I’m not into a sort of “polyanna-ish” approach to the new year. Just because “the sun will come out, tomorrow…,” a la Annie, doesn’t mean much of anything.
What does mean something is the Child in the manger. I said that last year, on the cusp of 2017. And no matter how the year turned out, it remains true. The Child in the manger makes the difference. It’s the Child, it’s Jesus who transforms our world. The mystery, the marvel, is that Jesus doesn’t suddenly make all warm and fuzzy, wonderful and delightful. In fact, the presence of Jesus is most profound in the midst of challenges, brokenness, even darkness.
There, in the worst of our times, Jesus – the crucified and risen Jesus – brings us life and future! I said that a year ago, and it’s still true, even more for me today. Jesus is the gift of life that continues to embrace me – and you – giving us the assurance that the new year will be a blessing, no matter what the year brings!
Earlier today we worshiped, with Jake Iliff (as part of his Senior Exit Project), sharing the message. Jake shared the story of a nursing home resident who considered everyone she met a blessing. What would happen to us if we lived our lives that way, intentionally looking for the blessings that surround us? What would happen if we entered 2018 with an eye to blessings, even ones that are harder to see?
Or put another way, what if I looked at 2018 as a gift of God’s grace, and recognized that the Child of the manger, who becomes the crucified and risen Jesus, transforms our world even in the most fearful and anxious of times. What if I entered the new year expecting not brokenness or simply “happy times,” but instead expecting – and looking for blessings, real blessings. Blessings, in the people God places in my presence. Blessings, in the opportunities (and maybe even the challenges) that come my way. Blessings, in knowing that no matter what, I am a baptized child of God, connected to the Child of the manger, but even more connected to the crucified Jesus (Romans 6:3-5). What if I just entered the year confident that God is at work, and that I am incredibly blessed simply because I have Jesus, or more properly, Jesus has me?
Perhaps, there with Child and the cross he bears, I see a new year that is filled with hope and promise. Hope and promise guaranteed and assured by the one who has shattered the darkest of the dark, with the light that the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:1-5).
And just maybe that allows me to enter the year with confidence, and at the end of year, to look back and see God’s hand, no matter what the year brings!
So, Happy New Year ! And, in the word’s of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!”
Look and see – in the Child, in the Christ of the cross and the empty tomb, in Jesus, it really is true!