For some the New Year is rather a sad time.
It’s a time when we’re conscious of the passing of time or those who are no longer with us; a time to look back to happier times; a time to be nostalgic, The past year has borne witness to a lot of sorrow and suffering and recovery from so much tragedy is not easy. How can we keep smiling?
It is anything but easy to remain hopeful in times of hardship. Becoming unhappy and depressed is not the answer. At this time of year, however, we can look back with the knowledge that brighter days are ahead of us, which might somehow permit us not to remain locked in our memories no matter how bittersweet they might be. And that’s because the New Year is also a time when we look forward with renewed hope. Coming one week after Christmas we still have the words of the Angels ringing in our ears – the promise of peace on earth and goodwill among the people of the earth.
The Bible says: ‘Peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.’ Words of peace are the seeds. They don’t produce fruit overnight, but slowly and silently they work their way to the surface changing hearts, minds, attitudes and futures.
Dr Robert Oppenheimer, the noted physicist who masterminded the first atomic bomb, was asked by a United States Congressional committee if there was any defence against it. Addressing a hushed audience he replied, ‘Yes – peace!’
Now if peace can defuse an atomic bomb, think what it can do in the lives of the people we come in contact with. During the weeks and months of 2016 we will meet disappointed, frightened, lonely and even angry people who need to hear a word of peace. A useful role model for all of us to follow is Jesus, who connected with people through acts of kindness and deeds of love such as washing the feet of those who would fail and betray Him, eating with a tax collector everybody in town despised and giving hope to a ‘fallen’ woman that society condemned. By doing all of this, and much more, Jesus succeeded in tearing down barriers and building bridges.
The values Jesus taught can spur people like us, regardless of our creed or culture, to be better by looking beyond selfish ambition and the scoring of points; beyond the narrow interests of political party and religious denomination, choosing instead to focus our concerns on the neediest people of this world and the things that make for peace.
All of us are striving to make our way on planet earth and to build a purposeful and fulfilling life in the fleeting time we have left. So, hats off to the past and coats off to the future. Let’s pledge, here and now, to roll up our sleeves and approach the year stretching out in front of us by allowing the vision of a world transformed by love and hope to influence us in all we say and do.
Be a Peacemaker in 2016. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.’
Rev Dr David Latimer
First Derry Presbyterian Church