“The steadfast love of the Lord never
ceases, his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your
faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says
my soul, therefore, I will hope in
him.’” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
Before you judge my choice of scripture focus…concluding that I have gone off the deep end by quoting a scripture from the book of Lamentations for a New Year’s reflection…let me explain. Indeed, the book of Lamentations, written by the prophet, Jeremiah, is a dirge…a funeral song for the fallen city of Jerusalem. If you were to read the whole song, you would discover that Jeremiah felt intense grief for the people whom he loved, and who chose to turn from God, suffered and endured great pain and loss. Yet, in the verses I quoted here, we find that even as Jeremiah grieved, he recognized God’s presence and faithfulness with the people and it gave him hope.
I hear many people say that they are glad that 2020 is finally over. I have not heard anyone say, “Hey…let’s do a repeat of 2020!” Some of us have found 2020 to be a particularly more troublesome and painful year because of the loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, chronic health issues, broken relationships and the like. But, all of us, to some extent, have experienced frustration, sadness and even anger because plans we made and everyday life as we’ve known it has been interrupted and upended by the pandemic. More and more we find that we know someone who has tested positive for the virus. People we know are in the hospital being treated for it…some have died from complications of the virus. And if it’s not been the COVID pandemic causing anxiety or even depression in your life, it might be the political and social unrest that is evident in our country. With these unwelcomed struggles so fresh in our thoughts, many of us grieve our losses and say, “Good-riddance” to 2020.
As disappointing as this may sound, the reality is, however, that there’s nothing magical that happens when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, is there? The things we disliked about 2020 at 11:59 P.M. do not mystically disappear at 12:00 A.M., January 1. The time on the clock and the turning of the calendar simply are indicators that we have begun a new year. What…if anything…can we do to turn things around? Some things are admittedly beyond our control; but lest we forget, we have a greater power on our side. We have God on our side. If we are honest with ourselves, we know we can look back and find that the faithfulness of God helped us to cope with and persevere through the challenges that 2020 presented to us. Just revisiting memories of some of what we have accomplished as a congregation should give us reason to celebrate and feel optimistic about the future. We found alternative ways to worship using technology. We’ve spent more time on the phone and sending messages to connect with others. We have held drive-thrus to share resources and to greet one another. We collected and distributed food and Christmas stockings to the less fortunate. We have grown in numbers as we shared love and care in non-conventional ways. We’ve grown spiritually as we leaned more on God to help and guide us and as we supported one another.
This has not only blessed us as a church family…but it has also enriched our personal lives as we find that the two are connected. We are not the same as we were at the start of 2020…nor should we want to be. We’ve been stretched…and at the same time we have been carried by the faithfulness of God…into a new beginning. We need not be afraid of what this new beginning will bring. If God’s faithfulness to us gives us anything…it gives us hope that whatever is to come…in both our congregational life and our personal lives…we will not be alone and all will be well. So, say good-bye to 2020 and joyfully welcome the New Year with anticipation and hope! God has good things in mind for us. How do I know? Hmmm…I think I just told you. Happy New Year, everyone!