2017 was quite a year. I could go down a list of both the joys and the sorrows we have experienced, but it would take most of the day. Every New Year’s Eve, we wonder what the New Year will bring. I think that this time the question seems a bit more poignant. With so many uncertainties, we wonder if there will be any happiness, any security, or will we even survive the year that is coming? Of course, life is always uncertain and death and misfortune can come to us anytime and often when we least expect it. 2018 will not be different. To face of these uncertainties, we humans have chosen to celebrate. We celebrate by going to parties, or being with friends and family, or we watch a ball drop, or we just go to bed and sleep. We celebrate to give thanks for the last year, but we also celebrate as a way of setting the stage for the coming year.
All around the world, there are traditions that we observe to bring us luck for the New Year. In the South, we eat black-eyed peas, hog jowls, and collard greens on New Year’s Day. We sing Auld Lang Syne, we kiss, and we eat grapes, shoot off fireworks. In Denmark, they save old plates and break them on New Year’s Eve. In South America, the color of your underwear worn on New Year’s Eve will determine your luck in the New Year. In Japan, they ring bells 108 times. In Switzerland, they drop ice cream on the floor. In some Peruvian villages, both men and women have fist fights so that they can start the New Year with a clean slate. In France, they eat pancakes. In Thailand, they smear each other with grey talc and throw buckets of water at each other. In Ireland, they throw bread at the walls to drive way evil spirits. In South Africa, they throw old furniture out of their windows. In Puerto Rico, they throw buckets of water out of windows. In Scotland, the first person to cross a threshold should have a gift in hand for good luck. In Estonia, they eat seven full meals for good luck. Well, I could go on and on.
These traditions are fun, even if a bit superstitious. I would like to think that we celebrate not from fear but from faith, but I’m not so sure. Yet, whatever fears the past year has given us, we should enter the New Year with faith. Faith gives vision. The book of Hebrews says that by faith, Abraham, while dwelling in tents, looked for a city, not built with human hands, but built by God. His life was a journey towards that city. Faith gives courage because Abraham was not mindful of the country through which he was passing, a journey filled with adversity. Faith gives strength. By her faith, Sarah had the strength to conceive and deliver a son despite her old age. By faith, the Forefathers and the Saints of the Church faced adversity and death and overcame them all, even if they did not escape them.
Faith does not mean that we think we will have a year free of adversity. Adversity will come whether we have faith or not, but faith will determine how we face that adversity. Adversity can be small and of little consequence, or the adversity can be large and overwhelming. Without faith, even small adversities can harm us and large adversity can kill us financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. While faith does not mean freedom from adversity, it is an attitude, it is a rock, a foundation, upon which the winds and waves of adversity have little or no effect. Jesus said that the wise build on this foundation because the waves of adversity crash against every house. One house falls and one stands. The only difference between the two is the foundation.
I am no prophet. I cannot tell you how life will be in 2018. I do hope that if you celebrate tonight, it will be a celebration of faith and hope. Our faith is in the Lord Jesus who is the King of Kings. Our hope is in the fulfillment of the promise of the Prophet that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Christ, and He shall rule forever.
Maybe 2018 will be that year. That is our faith and our hope; for then, love and faithfulness will meet, and righteousness and peace will kiss.