Ever since we got married, Lisa and I have picked up the Wagner family tradition of hosting a New Year’s Eve Party. Starting twenty-five years ago, we added a twist to it. Guests are encouraged—or pressured, depending on your perspective–to provide musical, poetic, or in some cases, dramatic presentations that mirror that particular year’s chosen theme. Last year’s thematic selection was nothing more than the provocative numeric implications of the New Year: 2020. For example, my family performed re-written lyrics to “I Can See Clearly Now” to honor the New Year (get it, 20:20?). Our ophthalmologist friend and his wife entertained us by leading a brief Pictionary game on a flip chart, revolving around eye-sight related images.
If, somehow, we could throw a New Year’s Eve party this year, I would be tempted to change up the format slightly. With 20 20 hindsight (Pun intended; hilarious right?!), rather than re-writing song lyrics, or poetry, or games to anticipate the coming year, I would ask guests to memorialize the unique year that we, thankfully, are finishing. In honor of our stripped-down, past year, I would ask the guests to enter into a contest utilizing the most stripped-down poetic form that exists: the haiku (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables, no rhyme-scheme required). Here would be my submission:
Looked forward to ice cream cones,
Got Liver instead!"
You might try your hand at this in the small pods and Zoom squares of your own New Year’s revelry. See if you don’t find that it is strangely therapeutic to make fun of the past year that has bullied us all so much!
It just so happens that this Sunday, most Christian denominations in America will hear an Old Testament Biblical selection that was cemented into a cycle of liturgical readings well over fifty years ago. In that reading, it is as though the prophet Isaiah had a telescope that allowed him to peer down into the future almost 2800 years to our time and circumstances (Isaiah 61: 1-11). It’s a good thing too. With such a stripped down Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, we could use a prophet to announce a new “year of favor,” that will include “healing for the broken hearted,” and “liberty to captives” (Isaiah (61: 1-11).
With the inauguration of two promising vaccines, perhaps 2021 is the more proper year for my family to sing,
“I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's going to be a
Sun shiny day.
[Johnny Nash, 1972]
It has been estimated that perhaps as many as 25% of Americans are somewhat depressed, anxious, or suffering stress at clinically significant levels right now. After almost ten months of this pandemic, people are worn down and worn out. Rather than waiting for a vaccine to take full effect to make things better, perhaps this is the time for you and me to emulate the prophet Isaiah, or the song-writer, Johnny Nash who died just a couple of months ago. This week, I am asking myself, what are the creative ways that I can speak a word or gesture of hope in this stripped-down moment? It is always darkest before the dawn. Now is time for you and me to stand up in the midst of this dark hour and point to the dawning of a year of favor just now showing up on the horizon. What are you downloading onto your “Hopeful Playlist?” To whom have you sent it? What are you reading for inspiration these days? With whom are you discussing it? How are you getting the word out about these books, or articles, or stories? Do you have any hopeful, or uplifting movie selections? (I like the film, Begin Again, 2013, starring Mark Ruffalo, and Kiera Knightley). You will notice a video that has been appended to this article that is making its way around the world right now. See if you are able to watch and listen to this selection, of arguably the most transcendent composition ever written, without weeping joy tears.
This week, can you try on the stunning idea that you may be the prophet that is needed for this moment? Would you be willing to feed your portion of the world with whatever light and hope you can?