Welcome 2021: Better than normal

1/3/2021

GROWING IN GRACE
BEN GOSDEN


It’s hard to believe the decade known as the year 2020 is finally coming to an end. I was listening to all of the different ways people aired grievances for this year. “The year we all want to forget,” one commentator said. “Good riddance once and for all, 2020” another remarked. We can all relate. None of us imagined 2020 would turn out this way. We all have one thing or another, in varying degrees, to grieve at the end of this unforgettable year.

Add to it all the fact that I preached Sunday on the text to celebrate the Epiphany: Matthew 2:1-12. The last verse of this passage is always a haunting message to read at the beginning of a new year:

“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Matt 2:12)

They went home by a different road. Spiritual teacher Ram Dass said that we as humans, in the end, are “just walking each other home.” As we move into the future together we are all on a journey – home, to God. If life is a shared journey home, doesn’t that reshape the way we look at the new year?

Instead of saying, “good riddance” to 2020, what could we learn from such a difficult year?

A few lessons from 2020

Here are just a few lessons we can take with us into the new year to help us on the next leg of our journey together home.

We learned empathy as we faced those early fears of COVID-19 and how it might affect us. How could that empathy guide us into a new year as we face the uncertainty of not knowing yet how this will end?

The pandemic finally opened many of us up to the epidemic of racial injustice in America. We have a long way to go, but 400 plus years of varying forms of oppression is hard to erase. And yet it’s a journey we must commit ourselves to, even (and especially) when it makes us uncomfortable.

We learned that we have been too busy for too long and life is better when we learn to slow down, appreciate each other more, spend some extra time around the dinner table, and take evening walks. Instead of wanting to add everything back, what could we leave out of our lives permanently?

This pandemic and the effects of the stress it’s causing is teaching many of us that good health is not truly healthy if it’s not wholistic. We are whole beings – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and relational. We must create margin in our life to attend to all forms of health if this is to be a life truly worth living. Instead of making diets and workout routines just another lofty resolution, how could those things become a lifestyle change we desperately need?

Better than normal

When I think of all of the ways we struggle with being self-centered, overly busy, incredibly divided, and ignorant of the hurt and pain around us I don’t want things to go back to normal. I want thing to be better than the normal we used to know. Epiphany is in just a few days. And the Magi show us the way home – by a different road than the one we’ve always known. It is a road filled with grace, togetherness, and love. It’s where we meet God and maybe even each other anew.

The Rev. Ben Gosden is senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Savannah. He can be reached at ben@trinity1848.org.