A New Year’s Benediction


In a few hours we are going to be found by a brand new year. As the clock ticks to midnight, some of us look back with a sweet sense of fondness because the year had been a constant unfolding of beautiful things. Some of us look forward with heavy hearts, weighed down by loss and regret, filled only with the burning desire to start over. We do not know what 2016 will bring, what joy and suffering will meet us as this new chapter begins. But as we stand here at the edge of the calendar together, I know one thing: we are allowed to hope.

This coming year, I pray you find the courage to change your mind. We get older and more stubborn, so set in our ways, so sure of how the world works. But there is something about wrestling with the questions. There is something about taking apart the things you know, the things you thought you knew, and being willing to see them in a completely different light. There is something about having a heart that is open enough to be wrong sometimes. Truth is a well we will never get to the bottom of and perhaps what we might find along the way, as we seek and search and journey, is that doubt does not extinguish certainty. It only ever amplifies it.

I hope this is the year you get out of your way. The world we live in worships at the altar of self.  But to remain there is futile because the world outside your self is where things really happen. Everyday there are people who need your compassion, your presence, your kind rage. Everyday there are people who are bound to find solace in your art, your courage, your light. We are convinced, everyday, to pacify our own egos, to keep our self-interest closest to heart. But this year I dare you to give yourself away. This year I dare all of us to knock our selves off the pedestal, to get on our knees so we can face the suffering of another person the way Jesus did: with a beautiful sense of self-forgetfulness. Our selves are worn from all the personal attention anyway. And now is a good time to look beyond. Because to someone out there, you are their hope of heaven.

But, most of all, I hope this is the year you succumb to the sweet revelation that there is nowhere you can go where grace can’t find you. I hope you carry this reality with you, especially on the days when your failures feel larger than life. I hope you go back to it again and again, because it remains the same and because you can. That you are held by a God whose faithfulness to you is greater than our finite minds can even begin to grasp. There are no lost causes with him, no one beyond the beauty of his redemption. We have a goodness that will take all measures to find us. It is the enormous common ground we all share. This is the promise of the gospel and we can bank on it. If we rest in the enormity of this, how can our whole lives not be changed? This 2016, I hope you choose to live loved.

We are hours away from calling this the year that was. We’re letting go of our hopes now, setting them free onto a canvas of unlimited potential. We don’t know what we will find. But as a great pastor once said: it is going to be a great year because God will be with us. And that, as we step onto the threshold, is more than enough light for whatever lies ahead.

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