Whether you are a Beatles fan or not, you must recognize that John Lennon was one of the great musical minds of our age. In 1971, he wrote and recorded a song that was a gentle protest against the war in Vietnam, but has become a standard for this time of year. Some of the lyrics are as follows:
So this is Christmas, and what have you done.
Another year over, and a new one’s just begun.
And so Happy Christmas, and a Happy New Year
We hope it’s a good one, without any fear.
I am sure that you have a few favorite songs that speak powerfully into your soul. This is one of mine. This particular lyric reminds me of a couple of things. First, is that time is going to keep on moving on, forever into the future, and time is not concerned about how much or little you have made of your life. It is going to trundle into the future whether we are ready or not. So while the time continues to pass us by, it is up to us to make the most of our days.
No one else can live your life, and no one is to blame for what you have or have not done with the year that is past. We all recognize that circumstances sometimes line up against us and bad fortune seems to make itself welcome like those cousins from Nebraska. Still, it is our own responsibility to number our days, to do what is within our grasp to take stewardship of our own time and our own selves, to own up to our failures and to capitalize on our opportunities.
The last line of those lyrics contains another element worthy of thought. Lennon sings that he hopes this year will be a good one. And I hope it is for you as well. But, in the English language at least, hope is not a method, nor is hope a plan. It sounds so much like wishing on a star and wanting. Rather than hoping to have a good year, instead, let us plan to have a good year, let us take some active and deliberate steps, to take responsibility for our own futures, by building healthy relationships, making constructive financial decisions, taking calculated risks, and investing our time and energy into that which is beneficial to our lives and families.
Often we spend our efforts on that which is useless and unproductive, and still we hope for a useful and productive result. Life seems to not happen that way. So instead of hoping for that which is unlikely, let us plan, strive, and labor for the positive results we seek.
I believe that God works best through our plans and our labors. I do not believe God is honored in the haphazard or careless. Yes, we trust in Him, we have a great faith in Him, and our hope is in Him. But hope in the original Greek language of the Bible is a different idea than it is expressed in English. In our tongue, hope is a wish, a desire, a feeling. But in Greek, it is a confident and trustworthy expectation in that which is secure.
To get the sense of the differences in language, compare your hope that the sun will rise in the morning to your hope of winning the lottery. One is much more worthy of hope than the other.
Whether you are contented or frustrated at your 2012, it is gone, history, and cannot be lived again. All the regrets and victories you might have had are closed with the calendar. Ready or not, 2013 is here. I am an optimist at heart, and I look forward to a new year with great anticipation.
My prayer for you, and for our community, is that we will labor together to achieve that which we long for. That God and people would be honored in our midst, we all would be filled with the courage to achieve our heart’s desires, that we would have healthy and productive lives. Let us live not in regret or frustration over that which is past and unchanging, but move into our future to with confidence and that the peace and prosperity of the Lord would be multiplied in our midst.
Many Blessings to you, and Happy New Year.
— Brian Hotaling is the pastor at Charles Town Baptist Church.