We look back on a year of significant changes – not all of them pleasant. There have been devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean and our Southeast, and horrific fires throughout the West. We’ve witnessed mass shootings in Texas and Las Vegas and countless gun deaths that barely make the news. Racial and ethnic tensions are rife, political and sexual scandals are rampant, and the societal climate increasingly lines up Us versus Them, opening scant room for healing dialog.
So Happy New Year!! . . . It would be nice, wouldn’t it, to wipe the slate clean and start a new year without all the rancor and pain and tragedy from the previous year? But we know that is never the case. The burdens we bear in this life may change or lessen, yet they never disappear with the turn of the calendar.
“Still your children wander homeless; still the hungry cry for bread;
Still the captives long for freedom; still in grief we mourn our dead.”
These words from “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service” (LBW #423, ELW #712) reflect the reality of our broken world. But it is a world into which our Lord came “in humble service (to bear) the weight of human need.” Christ was born not into luxury and ease, as well we know from the story we just heard at Christmas, but among the homeless and hungry and longing and grieving, to shelter and to nourish, to free and to comfort all those who yearn.
We as Christ’s body are privileged to know these blessings first, but we are then also empowered to convey them into our hurting world. As we enter this year of continued strife and suffering, let us enter it confident that Christ is with us to speak and to act for his Hope and his Life amid the struggles around us. As the hymn concludes,
“As we worship, grant us vision, till your love’s revealing light,
In its height and depth and greatness dawns upon our quickened sight,
Making known the needs and burdens your compassion bids us bear,
Stirring us to ardent service, your abundant life to share.”