By Reverend Lynn Finnegan
The Episcopal Church of the Holy Faith
My husband, the statistician, told me on the occasion of my 40th birthday, “It’s only because we live in a base 10 society that this is such a big deal.” While he might not have gained very many points with his wife who was then lamenting the passage of time, he was, of course, right.
Much of our thinking, reactions, and emotions are controlled by socially accepted norms and traditions, such as “40” (or “20”, “60”, etc.) being a “BIG” birthday, whereas, say 41 or 62, not so much.
The same holds true for New Year’s Day. Jan. 1, in reality, is no different than the 2nd or the 3rd , except that we have 1) accepted a calendar designating it the beginning of a new year; and 2) adopted celebrations and traditions to mark it. With the start of a new year we can’t help but hope for a better and brighter future, no matter how horrible the previous year has been. And that’s a good thing. We need festivities like the change of one calendar year to another to create rhythms in our lives and bring fresh hopes and expectations.
For many heading into a new year, hope comes in the form of resolutions. Lose weight. Get organized. Run a marathon. For others, hope comes in the form of a wish for an upcoming event.
Find a soulmate. Get that promotion. Vacation in Hawaii. Now I am guessing you have seen the statistics on how many of us actually keep our New Year’s resolutions, or, at year’s end, even remember what they were. And the wish for a future happening is usually beyond our control – it was just two short years ago the pandemic turned our world upside down and all hopes for 2020 went out the window.
Resolutions and hopes and dreams can be a good thing. We can embrace new experiences and be motivated to make meaningful changes. When resolutions are broken, expectations unmet, and dreams shattered, however, we often are left feeling disappointed, discouraged or even depressed.
The hope Christianity offers, though, is a different kind of hope. It isn’t wishful thinking, or blind optimism, or even the careless assertion everything will be okay in heaven. It doesn’t have a sunshiny Pollyanna attitude. It doesn’t come naturally, even to the most devout.
What Christian hope offers is a deep and powerful sense of trust and peace. Instead of depending on outward circumstances, it depends on faith in the character and person of a loving God. As Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom wrote, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”
Hope wrestles with despair but never lets despair have the last word. “Everything that is done in the world,” Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “is done by hope.” Christian hope is also an act of defiant resistance.
The light of Christ shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot, and will not, overcome it.
Wishing you a New Year filled with joy, love, faith, peace, and yes, hope.
Editor’s note: ‘All Shall Be Well’ is a semi-monthly column written by local women clergy (pastors and deacons) including, ELCA Deacon Cynthia Biddlecomb, M.Div., retired (email@example.com); Nicolé Ferry, Pastor, Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church (firstname.lastname@example.org); Lynn Finnegan, Assistant Rector, The Episcopal Church of the Holy Faith, Santa Fe (email@example.com) and Deb Church, Pastor, White Rock Presbyterian Church (firstname.lastname@example.org).