Bishop Lowry states it succinctly and well when he opens his New Year’s message to the conference with “Thank God 2020 is over!” With our sigh of relief that we have begun a New Year, it is good to remember that we have hope and joy in the coming year, not because we have flipped the page on our Gregorian calendars, but because we enter 2021 in the sure and certain knowledge that the Lord is with us.
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Thank God 2020 is over! This year has been a hard one for all.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has ravaged a year of relationships. The World Health Organization dates the start of the Pandemic as March 2020, but it feels like it has been going on forever.
The deep ethical crisis represented by the “Black Lives Matter” movement has been going on since before the start of our nation and is an endemic sin we must wrestle with. Ending Racism is Our Lifetime is not simply a slogan for our conference.
The staggering end of a widely contentious political season leaves wounds across our society.
The economic struggles we are living with lurk in the background of our lives on multiple levels.
It has been a tough year indeed, but we are metaphorically still standing! As we turn the page on a new year, I ask us to give pause and thanks to the Lord God Almighty! There have been accomplishments in 2020 for which we must rightly give thanks!
- Continued growth and emphasis of our WIG our wildly important goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ of the transformation of the world
- Over 50 New Faith Communities!
- A deepening commitment to be engaged in ending racism in our time as exemplified in the Be the Bridge brown bag book study and the racial reconciliation training event
- The living out of a “Future of Hope” in the spirit of Jeremiah 29:11 – “ For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” – as exemplified in adoption of our Forward to a New Spring Conference strategy built upon a continuing emphasis in making disciples (the Wildly Important Goal).
I am awestruck by the faithfulness and perseverance of churches across the Central Texas Conference! Your witness is an inspiration to me!
With our sigh of relief that we have begun a New Year, it is good to remember that we have hope and joy in the coming year, not because we have flipped the page on our Gregorian calendars, rather it is because we enter this New Year in the sure and certain knowledge that the Lord is with us. The celebration of Christmas and the great incarnation of God with us in Jesus Christ is not the end of the story of the people of God but the launching pad from which we blast forth!
I like to think that in the Bible, the entrance to a new year is launched for us by the Wisemen. In the liturgical calendar. we turn the page from Advent and Christmas into the season called Epiphany – “the light (or revelation) of Christ to the Gentiles.” We all know and rejoice in verse 11 of the Matthew’s great second chapter.
“On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
There is an easily skipped over following verse. “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Matthew 2:12)
Let this Word from Holy Scripture penetrate our modern living at the beginning of the Year of our Lord 2021. We are returning home by another way. We think we have it tough with a pandemic, an economic depression, a racial and ethnic crisis, and chaotic division. After their great celebration of the incarnation, the birth of God in the person of the baby Jesus, the Wisemen had to flee Herod’s version of the Gestapo. What is striking is that the darkness of evil, the difficulty of life on the road, and the danger of returning home by a different way did not stop them.
In these times of turmoil, we too must return home to by another way. In the darkness, difficulty and danger of modern living, the Christian gospel lifts the light of Christ, the incredible truth that God is with us … even when destruction pursues us.
Together, I invite us to peer into the distance of the year which begins to unfold in front of us. Do you recall the vision with which the Bible closes? It is God’s promise to us as we enter this new year of the Lord.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
Enter this New Year in the promise of the Lord God Almighty. The Holy Spirit goes before us. Christ himself leads us. God is at work within us. Even now, even in this time of tumult.
“Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3) Come, let us enter the New Year together with courage tethered to hope, anchored in Christ, resting on the foundation of God’s promised deliverance. May the Lord be with you in this, His New Year.