T.S. Elliot wrote, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
Elliot’s prose may never be more accurate than when we say “goodbye” to 2020 and “hello” to 2021.
There is nothing magical about the turn of a calendar, but it can be significant in setting the proper tone for the future. As this long year finally comes to an end, we look back with trepidation and look forward with uneasy hope.
This past year has been like none before it.
The world continues to suffer under the coronavirus pandemic, with over 81 million confirmed cases and 1.7 million deaths worldwide as of today. It’s hard to find anyone these days who has not been directly affected by it.
While the virus raged, another pandemic continued its spread in the United States, evidenced by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other Black citizens. Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for protesters as they sought police reform.
The other big news of this past year dealt with the presidency.
Early in the year, President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives but acquitted by the Senate. In November, former Vice President Joe Biden defeated Trump in a very contentious election to become the president-elect along with vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.
It’s fair to conclude that 2020 has been an unprecedented and challenging year. However, we now stand at the threshold of a new year. While we look back on last year with angst and anxiety, we look forward to the upcoming year with both hesitancy and hope.
We cast our gaze forward with hopeful hesitancy, understanding we still have a long way to go before the end of the pandemic and knowing racism is more than a blemish on our nation’s character.
However, in our hesitancy, we can see hope.
Vaccines are being distributed and administered all across the world. It will take time and effort before this pandemic is under control, but we are taking some positive steps forward.
We can control the spread of the virus, but we must all do our part. As the calendar turns, we must continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash our hands routinely and limit large gatherings.
In regard to racism, last year needs to be seen as a hinge moment when the country began to swing toward acknowledging systemic racism and striving toward racial justice. The murders of Arbery, Taylor, Floyd and others should bend the country toward justice as we repent from our past, reckon with our present and seek reparations for our future.
As 2020 gives way to 2021, we enter the new year, stumbling across the threshold.
While we all wear the scars of the previous year, let’s begin this year with the refrain of Psalm 42 and 43 on our lips and in our hearts.
Languishing from what sounds like a traumatic event, the psalmist writes these words three times, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted in me?”
Feeling very much adrift and in peril, the psalmist seeks and discovers salvation each time. “Hope in God,” the next line reads, “For I shall praise God, my help.”
Turning the calendar can be much more than a symbolic event.
Let it be a reset for individuals and communities. Let it be a starting point to enact transformation. Let it be a moment in time when real change begins. Let it be a reminder that our salvation and hope still rest in God after a challenging year.
No one seriously believes everything will change overnight when Jan. 1 arrives, but we can use this moment to set a positive tone for the upcoming year. As the author of Hebrews encouraged, “Let us go on towards perfection” (Hebrews 6:1).
With each turn of the calendar, people of good faith should seek ways to make ourselves and our communities “more perfect.” Each of us recognizes our many flaws and shortcomings, but the hope and encouragement of Christ motivate us toward righteous and just transformation.
Looking into the rearview mirror, most of us are delighted at the departure of 2020. Yet, we cast our gaze with apprehensive optimism.
On behalf of Good Faith Media, I want to wish each of you a very happy new year. We hope and pray this year is filled with inspiration and joy.
May we continue to hope in God and seek God’s help along the way. Only then will that kingdom be seen on earth, as is it in heaven.
CEO of Good Faith Media.