I don’t know about you, but when I think about the fact that by Sunday we’re in 2012 already, I feel a little overwhelmed. I mean, it feels like yesterday that we were beginning with 2011, and it feels like light-years ago. Sheesh, time flies (and faster and faster too)!
Now, I know that not all of us are as emotional or pensive/meditative as others, but at this time of year – even if only for an hour or two – it’s almost impossible to not spend a little while thinking about the year that has passed. And maybe, when looking back, you could be feeling proud, satisfied, surprised, inspired…maybe lonely or sad…or even just tired. This is important because the year that has now gone by has an influence on the year we are entering into: if it’s been a smashing year then you’re probably already jumping for joy at the new year; but if it’s not been your best year, you might be wishing that you could stay in a limbo between the two – a place where you don’t have to deal with the old year, or move into the next.
It would be very easy to over-simplify this and say it’s only about the way you view/understand life – the whole “glass half-empty or glass half-full” shtick – and though there is truth to the saying, we all know it is not as simple as that. We do not live in isolation; people and situations that affect our lives surround us. Whatever the case may be, here we are at the beginning of a new year. Is there something that could be said to inspire us all in our different situations and states of mind?
“You, Lord, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears. Brutal people may attack and try to kill me, but they will stumble. Fierce enemies may attack, but they will fall. Armies may surround me, but I won’t be afraid; war may break out, but I will trust you. I ask only one thing, lord: Let me live in your house every day of my life to see how wonderful you are and to pray in your temple.” – Psalm 27:1-4
Maybe a text where David is going through the same kind of thought process as we are now with the turning of the year. Looking at Psalm 27 I am struck by the realism of the poem – it was not written by someone wearing rose-coloured glasses; it was written by someone who had experienced both sides of life, someone who understands that life is made up of paradoxes, sweet and sour moments, good and bad. Something that is good for all of us to remember at the beginning of this New Year, especially when New Year’s eve itself can be so euphoric. We joke and we laugh and we celebrate, thinking only about the very best things for ourselves and for those around us. But that is not how life works, so maybe that is a good place to start – admitting, together with David, that this new year will have its good and bad parts. There will be times when our faith and our trust will be tested to the utmost.
Sounds a bit too depressing for New Year? Precisely NOT! For in the midst of the realities of life David is writing a testimony of note! He describes God as his Light and his Redeemer, his Refuge, the Rock on which he builds his life. He is looking back at his life, at the year that has passed, and can still describe God as the One that protected him in every difficult situation, the One that never allowed him to go under in any of the storms in his life. This is a man who knows the realities of life and takes them into account – sickness, disappointment, and loss – but does not let these realities bring him down. Why? Because God is the One who lifts up his head, allowing him to look life straight in the eye.
Psalm 27…life as we know it…is ambivalent…filled with things we will never be able to fully understand or explain. We will never have all the answers. There will always be things that leave us in the dark. But in all pain, in every bitter moment, every bad thing that might happen to us need not steal our joy, because our joy’s foundation is not our circumstances but rather the God who is our Light and our Redeemer, our Refuge and our Rock. And He will never ever forsake us.
“What can we say about all this? If God is on our side, can anyone be against us? God did not keep back his own Son, but he gave him for us. If God did this, won’t he freely give us everything else? If God says his chosen ones are acceptable to him, can anyone bring charges against them? Or can anyone condemn them? No indeed! Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at God’s right side, speaking to him for us. Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death? It is exactly as the Scriptures say: ‘For you we face death all day long. We are like sheep on their way to be butchered’. In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love – not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!” – Romans 8:31-39