Thank God! No one wants to wish their life away, but I cannot think of a one of us who isn’t good and ready to put 2020 fast behind us.
It isn’t like nothing good happened. We Chiefs fans are ecstatic we put 50 years of Super Bowl futility behind us with their victory early last February. Babies kept being born. Wedding vows were still exchanged. Birthdays were still observed, though mostly via Zoom.
But we might amend Charles Dickens’ opening salvo in a Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Except it was more the BEAST of times!
Syndicated Humorist and Miamian Dave Barry captured the absurdity of 2020 in a column in The Washington Post with a month-by-month account. Some samples:
- This was a year of nonstop awfulness, a year when we kept saying it couldn’t possibly get worse, and it always did. This was a year in which our only moments of genuine, unadulterated happiness were when we were able to buytoilet paper. Which is fitting, because 2020 was one long, howling, Category 5 crapstorm.
- In sports, (June-July) Major League Baseball tried to come up with a plan tosalvage the 2020 season, a task that became more urgent each day, as the Houston Astros had already won 137 games, all of them no-hitters. The Washington Redskins, bowing to mounting public pressure, announced that they were changing their name, which critics said was insensitive. They will henceforth be known as the Pittsburgh Redskins.
- In election news, Joe Biden makes history bychoosing Kamala Harris as his running mate; if elected, she would become the first U.S. vice president whose name can be rearranged to spell “I Alarm a Shark.” For his part, Trump dismisses rumors that he might change running mates, telling reporters, “I’m very happy with whatshisname.”
You get the point.
2020 was like visiting Fantasy Land at Disney World, with not-to-be-believed trolls coming up with conspiracy theories faster than the speed of light! Our nation is so divided astronomers have decided there’s no need to look for another habitable planet in our galaxy. Half of Americans are living on one planet, while the other half has created a second planet right here on their own. It’s as George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” Except he surely meant this only of America.
Even die-hard pessimists are optimistic about 2021. It has to end better than 2020!
This is where I come down.
Some of our own SCCC people have already started getting vaccinated. For those of us who still believe in medical science this is very good news.
The much larger audience (3 to 4x more folks than for the recorded services) over the first four weeks of Live Streaming is telling us there’s a real hunger for worship that at least approximates Live Streaming. The great turn-out for the Christmas Eve Parking Lot Service on a bitterly cold evening punctuates the thirst for in-person worship. René and I are committed to increasing member participation in worship through video-recorded Calls to Worship shared by households of every size.
That at least two households pre-paid their 2021 pledge and our landlord postponed three-month’s (December-February) rent helps us meet 2020’s June through October financial shortfall due to COVID and the loss of the Rev. Johnny Lewis. The Search Committee is formed and will be seeking congregational feedback in late winter 2021. And this is just about our church.
On the home front the Chiefs have won the “BYE” for the playoffs as the top AFC team in the NFL. The “Five Thirty-Eight” web site gives them a 35% chance of winning their second Super Bowl in a row. And hope springs eternal for the Royals who have made several positive moves in the off-season and have a great farm system. 2021, here we come!
But the thing that distinguishes us in the Jewish-Christian tradition is our capacity for hope and faith in spite of the obstacles our hope and faith have met this past year. The reason we have this capacity to overcome these obstacles isn’t just the longing for the life-to-come. The vast majority of global Christians focus on the afterlife, which makes sense considering the extent of global poverty and while many working class Americans have all but given up hope for this life.
The reason we can overcome these obstacles is because we believe in a God, Who takes each of our lives and all our lives together so seriously and lovingly, God chose to become one of us in Jesus. Christmas, the Feast of the Incarnation, is all about God taking upon God’s own self the sadness and the suffering of our world. God will bring about, as Revelation 21 says, “a new heaven and a new earth.” Our sorrows as much if not more than our victories mean everything to God. That’s why the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is so hard on the Rich Man. He failed to care for his poor brother, as God cares for our poor neighbor.
So, while we cannot see the ultimate outcome God has for all creation, we know the outcome God has in mind and in store for the world: A future where there is no more COVID, no more death, no more sadness, no more 2020’s.
This is where our life’s journey is headed. But, until that new earth comes, our job is to seek it for others, which is finally the way we seek it for ourselves. We need to start to give what we most would like to receive: joy, justice, and peace on earth forever and ever, world without end. May it be so, Lord. May it be so!
Happy New Year! Happy new you!