Today serves as the last Sunday of the last week of 2020.
As I reflect back on the beginning of 2020, I recall as a church we were gearing up with big, and typical, plans. I was standing before you as we looked forward to the New Year, marking our calendars with upcoming events which included a mission trip to the Med-Rim, the Spring Break ski trip for our students, new classes that were forthcoming, and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Looking back at our plans, and how it all went down, reminds me of the Bible verse that says: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" - James 4:13-16
Boy, have I learned the truth of that one.
So, it goes without saying, this last year did not go as we planned. It did not go as you planned. And the cause was not small, it was horrific. A worldwide pandemic has interrupted each of our lives and all of our lives.
Now, we are Christians, and as such, our faith and trust in God allows us to see the good even in the bad. We†live within a larger story than the one that sits plainly in sight, and it provides us with an eternal perspective that makes death less traumatic or painful, and a redeeming perspective that makes difficulties and struggles worthwhile.
So, we praise God for that. Especially for years like 2020, it is important. And we will do that today.
Equally important, however, is to not too quickly brush aside the very real suffering that 2020 has brought. Even with our eternal and redemption perspectives, we are easily dazed and confused, troubled and devastated, by the suffering endured in this world. Without giving one inch of ground in terms of our joy, we need not, and do not, brush aside the difficulties that overwhelm us.
What do we do? We lament.
Everyone cries (at least everyone should), but Christians lament. Lamenting includes crying but crying as a form of prayer. It is an honest expression of our overwhelming troubles, but turned to God. It is always accompanied with calls for help - but finally finished and resolved with trust.
So, we will do that today, too. We will praise and lament, because these are God's gifts to His people - to deliver our greatest need, Himself - even in and through 2020.