We now are looking at January 2014. It seems like only yesterday when we were all concerned about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world in 2012. 9/11 happened more than 10 years ago. Where does the time go? It seems as though it is galloping by at a faster rate each year as baby boomers begin to look at social security, pensions, and retirement plans.
New Year’s is always a high-water mark in all of our lives as we usher in the new year. Shakespeare once said, “We burn daylight” and that was certainly true for me in my younger days. Now I am going through “bucket lists” as fast as I can. New Year’s is also a time to make resolutions, as we all know too well. It’s sort of like you have a chance to begin at the starting line again for a new year. The slate is clean for 2014. What are you going to do with it?
However, before you begin to charge into the new year, it is always good to look back and take stock of what happened. As a country we still seem to have gridlock with fights over debt ceilings, budgets. nominations, and almost anything else. Edward Snowden, who is now enjoying his new home in Russia, was another huge story. The affordable care act had its problems with the internet; a baby boy was born to the English crown; Miley Cyrus embarrassed herself; seven states legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, joining nine others who did so before; thousands were killed in the Philippines as a result of one the worst typhoons in history. Unfortunately not so prominent but ever-important, Christians are being killed in Syria, Central Africa and Egypt. News often seems to be a little bleak when you look back, but grabbing the headlines this year were two outstanding religious figures. Time Magazine found Pope Frances to be the most interesting man in the world, and the world stopped for a few days to follow the speeches and ceremonies that surrounded the death of Nelson Mandela.
To me what is important is that, amid all of the low points in our culture that were demonstrated this year, our world continues to be intrigued by two giant figures who seem to push against the tide of cultural trash where self-absorption (see “selfie”) is the new normal. Yet the world takes notice of a pope who washes the feet of the poor, the Muslim woman, and embraces the HIV/Aids patients, all of whom are in juvenile prison. He goes on to be approachable and off-the-cuff in interviews and refused to stay in luxurious papal quarters lived in by past popes. The clock stopped as world dignitaries left what they were doing to attend the funeral of a black man who was imprisoned for 28 years in South Africa. It seemed like the funeral lasted for days as Nelson Mandela’s life was celebrated. Mandela was not worried about public opinion, but only wanted to make a difference in the lives of those who lived under the brutal, oppressive regime of apartheid.
Mandela’s change of heart came in prison, of all places. It was there that he contemplated the meaning of such biblical words as reconciliation, forgiveness, and justice. He rethought his position on violence and moved to the idea of a non-violent struggle for justice. He expressed the idea as follows: “Until I changed myself, I could not change others.” So the world looks at another person who, in a miraculous way, changed the course of history for his country and even his continent and, some would argue, for the whole world.
2013 brought with it the trivial and the sublime, especially as we were introduced again to a pope pushing at the foundations of a lethargic church and an old black man who dies having planted a seed of hope in the hearts of many. So, 2014 can be a year like any other, or it can be an opportunity for us to do great things as individuals, as parents, as people of faith, and as the church.