Happy New Year.
Happy—when I see that word I think of a fluffy puppy wagging its stub of a tail or a radiant child in receipt of exactly the hoped-for bicycle or a joyous senior citizen, holding a new grandchild or great-grandchild or a fulfilled though exhausted pastor with an altar full of responders to the Word or a determined teacher who sees light bulbs going off above the heads of once recalcitrant pupils in spite of the many unteacherly, administrative duties required of her or a committed young scholar unwrapping the offprint of that first publication or a haggard doctor witnessing the recovery of an iffy patient or a rekindled middle-aged couple reconciled after a moral failure or of a homeless family still together when Dad comes to the shelter with the good news of a permanent job or of an unappreciated city official, loving his community anyway. Happy means tail-wagging, wrinkled grins, warm hearts, the good kind of pride, satisfaction after it has been long-denied, unselfish labor on behalf of others, a heart full of forgiveness and hope after despair.
New—when I see that word I think of how nature itself perpetually renews and modifies positively, of how even in old age people can be refreshed by launching out on ventures never dreamed of in youth, of how old passages of Scripture one has known since Vacation Bible School can take on new meaning and speak directly to us from the heart of God, of the creative spirit of gifted teachers, who spontaneously and often subversively try new ways of teaching, respecting the individuality of their students more than the “how-tos” of education courses or guidelines, of new ways of fragmenting reality that result in contributions to knowledge by tenacious scholars, of medical advances that save lives and give hope, of new starts for troubled families who learn to let bygones be bygones. The word new means obeying nature, being bold, seeking Truth, being creative, contributing through unique giftings, healing hurts and restoring families.
Year—when I see the word year, I think of the worn path the earth takes around the sun, the long space journey, that ancient trip that has so many consequences seasonal and otherwise on our space vehicle, the earth. When I see the word “year” I think of happy birthdays for children and the elderly, of anniversaries, marked by recommitment, of medical check-ups that give correction and encouragement, of celebrations in the church year that remind us systematically of spiritually significant events in history that come true for us in the present, of time as a measurement not only of universal motion, but as a reminder of our own mortality. Our time in this dusty space suit is in decrescendo mode, heading toward arrest and epitaph, which will leave empty words like “Rest in Peace,” awaiting that great day when the miracle of the ages will help us finally obey the Biblical admonition, “Put on Christ.”
So, as your fellow passenger on our journey together, let me say, wholeheartedly, Happy New Year!