Hope for a New Year

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Today’s slice of the bread of life, the Word of God, comes from John 1:1-14:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God…the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

Can this year really be over? Where did it go? It seems like we were just sharing our hopes and dreams and goals for the year 2011 and now it is behind us, and it’s time to make more New Year’s resolutions. Joke writer Ed McManus has some words of comfort for those of us who are setting resolutions: He says, “Don’t worry about keeping those News Year’s resolutions, you only have to deal with them until February and then you can give them up for Lent.” It sounds like he has been spying on some of us.

The Bible accurately describes our life as a “vapor.” This journey through life really is a brief one, and all the more reason why we must stay focused and not become distracted from fulfilling our God-given purpose: to serve and glorify Him with our lives.

Let me start with: we live in a crazy world. There was an article sometime back in The Smithsonian magazine about Barbie dolls. Ever since Barbie made her debut on toy store shelves, she has been accused of creating self-esteem problems in teenage girls.The male equivalent of the Barbie doll, according to some people, is the gun-toting G.I. Joe action figure. Notice that it is called an “action figure” and not a doll. Boys don’t play with dolls, do they? Now for the craziness. In 1993, a mischievous group called the Barbie Liberation Organization decided to take revenge on these influential dolls. They bought hundreds of talking Barbie Dolls and hundreds of talking G.I. Joes. Then, the group extracted the voice chips (the things that make them talk) from all of the Barbie Dolls and they placed them in the G.I. Joes, and vice versa. Then they repackaged the figures, and replaced them in stores. Can you imagine the chaos that resulted. Can you see young girls’ reactions when their Barbie Dolls announced in a rough voice, “Eat lead, Cobra!” Or when young boys heard their G.I. Joes squeal, “Ken is such a dream.”

Yes, this is a crazy world. It’s also a very stressful world.  If you lost money in your pension fund this year in the slump of the stock market, you were probably furious at the actions of many corporate CEOs. It was bad enough that our economy took so many hits with the collapse of more banks than we would like to count. Why is all this so grievous? It is because of what careless executives did to their employees and stockholders. Do the people at the top of great corporations care at all about people at the bottom?

A new term entered our vocabulary a few years back” “downsizing”. It means “trimming back” primarily at the expense of employees. In a long article in the Wall Street Journal, Susan Faludi recounted the toll just one downsizing exacted from 63,000 employees when Safeway supermarkets decided to get lean and mean. Faludi recounts suicides, attempted suicides, divorces, broken families, whole towns devastated economically, children who had to drop out of college, and thousands of people left without jobs, or the hope of finding another one. On the other hand, the few executives at the top of the company shared a personal gain of $800 million after four years.

No wonder some of us have trouble sleeping at night. There’s a lot going on in this world to keep you awake. There’s a lot to both sadden us and infuriate us. And then, just when we think there is no hope for this world, into the world comes God. That’s the good news for this first Sunday in a new year. Just when humanity was on the verge of giving up and giving in, here comes God. What did we just read in today’s slice? “in the beginning was the Word…the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…”  An Upbeat Word for a Downbeat World: that’s our theme for the coming year…

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