With a new year, hopeful possibilities await.
“See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare,” a prophet in the book of Isaiah avowed during the Babylonian exile of sixth century BCE (Isaiah 42:9).
For the Jews, life had grown difficult. Far from their ancestral lands and living under a brutal dictatorship, the Jews longed for a day to return home.
As the Babylonians began to lose power in the region, a new hope emerged for God’s exiled children.
Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, conquered the Babylonians. A respecter of both cultures and peoples, Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Palestine and rebuild their lives.
The prophet gave voice for the people, celebrating the end of their darkness and their embrace of a bright future, declaring, “Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth!” (Isaiah 42:10).
They could repent from their past sins, walk away from heaviness that oppressed them and run to a future God provided through love, mercy and redemption.
The Apostle Paul picked up on this type of divine hope for humanity when he declared, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
For Paul, the idea that an old way can be left behind – while embracing a new future – was central to his identity and theology.
Paul left behind a former identity to completely embrace a new one. He ceased persecuting and killing Christians to fully live out his new faith with compassion and openness (Acts 7).
Paul, more than anyone in the first century, understood the importance of leaving a troubled past behind to embrace the light of Christ before him.
As I reflect on both of these moments in the Bible, I cannot help but think about the passing of another year and our embrace of new one.
While we should never forget the past, we should not dwell on it either.
There are moments such as these when we should move away from a place filled with sorrow toward a place bursting with potential.
On this new path, we will discover bright lights of hope. In this new land, opportunity awaits.
Therefore, we must look toward the future through courageous and optimistic eyes.
As the new year begins, here are my hopeful possibilities for 2020:
- That the church stands for truth, decency and a common good for all people.
- That the church welcomes the stranger through supporting humanitarian efforts to assist refugees and immigrants.
- That the church calls for an end to the practice of separating immigrant children from their parents, putting them into cages, letting them move through the legal system with little representation and die without simple preventative medical care.
- That the church takes responsibility as global caretakers, embracing lifestyles and laws that protect God’s creation.
- That the church opens her arms to fully embrace and affirm LGBTQ Christians.
- That the church embraces God’s hope for global peace as we beat our guns into plowshares and support sensible gun legislation in the U.S.
- That the church renounces all forms of racism, bigotry and xenophobia as we stand beside others celebrating a shared and diverse humanity.
- That the church models civil and productive political dialogue during an election cycle with the potential to tear us apart.
- That the church denounces racist systems and ideologies that bring harm and injustices to minority communities.
- That the church returns to her roots, creating and cultivating a sanctuary for the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.
As we walk through these first few days of 2020, let’s recall the words of Jesus himself, when he declared, “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17).
May we look into this new year with a fresh vision and ideas so that we might exhibit the love, justice and hope of Christ.