It’s behind us now, 2020.
Looking over our shoulder at the calendar most people are ready to toss, some would say, “It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.” (Sorry, Charles Dickens). Some of us (myself included) lost loved ones. For others, their children became strangers, their neighbours, enemies. Our caregivers and medical establishments faced the horrors that fill nightmares, and around the world, governments ran madly off in all directions. (Apologies, Mark Twain, for that last bit.)
It’s all too horrible. Too heartbeaking. Our world newscasts concur.
For others, 2020 brought some good things. Many couples, their wedding plans cancelled, had smaller ceremonies instead and reported less expense, more fun, and less stress. Some churches who couldn’t meet as usual chose creative approaches to ministry and found their outreach even greater than when they confined most of their services to their buildings. Certain businesses discovered new, more productive ways to earn an income. And many people who worked from home, instead of going to their workplace, found themselves with more time. Some learned to bake and cook all over again. Some rediscovered arts and crafts. Many were reminded how needful and rewarding it is to connect more deeply with their families.
Wherever you fall in this retroactive glance at 2020, one thing is clear: we have no good choice but to enter 2021 together.
Many people face the future with dread, expecting times will get even worse. But a few have hope. Hope things will improve, hope the pandemic will vanish, that we will once again have unrestricted access to our families and friends, and that life will (preferably sooner than later) recalibrate. That we’ll resume the old normal most of us miss so dreadfully. The truth is likely somewhere in between. For some, things will get worse, and for a few, better.
Emily Dickinson, one of my favourite classic poets, wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” Sing the tune without the words. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I choose that. To refuse to define or restrict what I hope for to what it seems would make us better, but instead to place my hands, palm up, to God in prayer, and remember that Christ alone is my hope and strength.
A current worship songs puts it this way:
What is our hope in life and death? Christ alone, Christ alone! What is our only confidence; That our souls to Him belong; who holds our days within His hand.
What comes, apart from His command? And what will keep us to the end? The love of Christ, in which we stand!
O sing hallelujah! Our hope springs eternal; O sing hallelujah! Now and ever we confess Christ our hope in life and death! (Song by Keith Getty and Matt Papa)
Even in the worst of worst times, we can rest in that truth.
God’s strength and hope to you in 2021.