Tonight at 11:59pm we will bid good riddance to the year 2020. And how many of us cannot wait for a fresh start in 2021? This has been a year like none of us have experienced before. But there have been other challenging years throughout history. For instance, in 1914 the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated. This act threw most of Europe plus Great Britain and the United States into what we now know as WWI. The war raged from 1914-1918 and over 17 million people died and close to 20 million were injured. Right on the heels of this war was the Spanish flu pandemic that lasted for two years and took the lives of another 20-50 million people. The world saw fighting in Korea, Vietnam, and skirmishes elsewhere. There have been race riots, chaos, and political upheaval. Many of us know exactly where we were when President Kennedy was assassinated, and his brother Bobby and Martin Luther King Jr.
And every one of those years, on December 31, people said how glad they were to see that year over. The last Sunday of 2019, which seems like forever ago now, many people shared with me how glad they were the year was almost over and they could not wait for 2020. Now we are saying the same thing about 2020! My point is this, every year has its challenges...some more than others. Every year brings us a chance to grow personally, in our relationships with others, and with God. Our look backwards at the year leaving is colored by what we have focused on. If all we can see are the challenges, pain, struggle, grief, and chaos, then 2020 was a really crummy year.
What if, however, we looked at the year not as a journey up the mountain and back down to the depths, but as a set of train tracks. Because every year there is good and bad. There have been good things this year. They have just gotten lost in the shuffle. And we cannot lose sight of the good things that have happened. Yes, there is a pandemic. Yes, we had to suspend in person worship for a couple of months, but over time RLC had acquired enough pieces of technology to be able to record and make available worship via that technology. No, it wasn't quite the same, but we still got to see a few familiar faces, lift our voices in song and hear God's word read and preached.
Many of us over the course of this year have meet and developed friendships with people we had not known before. As people made phone calls and checked in on one another, new connections were formed. We have seen the medical world race to develop new treatments in their reaction to this pandemic. And much of the world has worked together to develop vaccines to help slow the spread of this virus.
When we think of scripture there were folks who were glad to see one year end and a fresh start in the next. Think of the prophet Ezekiel who was tasked to lay on his left side for 390 days and then on his right for 40 more. At the end of the year, he was no doubt ready to say good riddance to that year and begin the next. Or Jonah after his year spent running from God, ending up in the belly of a whale. The next year had to be better! The followers of Jesus had to be glad to see the year of His crucifixion end. That had been perhaps the worst year of their lives. For all those folks as well as for all of us, there was good mixed in. In all the chaos, pain, grief, we have seen and known God's grace. Jesus promised we would have troubles. No doubt there are times when we wonder if he has chosen the right person for a specific set of challenges, but even in our wondering we can hear Jesus say, ”But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Maybe that needs to be front and center this next year...”Take heart, I have overcome the world.” That is the reassurance we need to hang onto. There will be challenges. We know that. There are every single year. But our God is way bigger than any challenge we might face, even if we cannot see it at the time. Ezekiel continued with his prophetic ministry. Jonah didn't spend the rest of his life in the belly of a whale. The followers of Jesus received the power of the Holy Spirit and the good news of Jesus Christ spread like wildfire. There will be good news this year. Babies will be born. People will get married and begin lives together. Others will join the church triumphant. We will continue to see medical advances. And there will be scads of people who perform random acts of kindness for people they do not even know.
Our God is still sovereign, and Jesus is still on the throne. And that kid's song...He's got the whole world in His hand...is true. 2020 has been quite a year, but together, with the help of the Lord we have made it through. Next year will bring another set of adventures. And Jesus will walk with us every step of the way.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W