No surprises if we feel rather glad to see the back of last year. 2020’s been plenty. Disorientating. Hard. Relentless. Sure, there have been unexpected blessings to give thanks for, but we grieve the life and lives that have been lost.
And is it me, or does the fact that it’s been such a tough year only increase the pressure to make the next 365 days altogether different? Of course, we all welcome a fresh start. And there’s some great gags about lowering our expectations for 2021. Apparently there’s some great odds for an alien invasion and gravity turning itself off…
But the reality is I’ve often found New Years Day slightly overwhelming. So much positivity and hype, yet part of me wakes up on 1/1 feeling unsure. Do you know that feeling when you’ve planned some epic hike, pulled into the car park, put on your boots & rucksack, and then find yourself looking up… I can just about glimpse parts of a path in the distance, leading over towering craggy peaks and into long tiring valleys. A new year? I’m not even sure I’ve caught my breath from the last one.
But where is our Hope going forward? The dawning of 2021? The turn of a calendar? The prospect of a ‘new me’? I love a good sunrise and I’d love it to be that simple. But despite the Counting Crows song, rolling a dice and hoping the next twelve months will be ‘better than the last’ seems a recipe for disappointment.
So here’s a thought. At the start of the Christmas story, a bloke called Zechariah says that, ‘Because of God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace‘ (Luke 1:78-79). In other words, we want a fresh start, a new year, but God gives us Jesus. As Eric Geiger puts it, ‘He is our dawn‘.
What will breathe life into this weak and weary heart? The warming rays of the love of a Saviour who goes before me, up every steep mountain and through every dark winding valley. And my weakness and weariness are not limiting factors but the terms of the deal, as he works in me to make much of His grace. Indeed, lining up behind him, little by little, actually I find begin to change. My drooping hands and buckling knees are lifted by the One who pioneered a way through this creaking and often cruel world. All the way to the darkness of a cross and the dawn of an empty tomb. Yes, he rallies my faint & fearing heart, giving me a selfless confidence as I stare into the unknowns of 2021.
More than self-confidence, ambition, and a fresh diary, what I need is to stick close to Jesus. So I join his dawn chorus: ‘His love endures forever‘. Yes, he is strong and kind.