MSNBC did a poll asking people if they thought 2010 would be better than 2009.
70% of the people who responded said, “yes”.
Mostly because this last year was so lousy.
Here is a sample of some of the people said about the coming of the New Year.
“Worst year EVER; lost a parent, dog, house and filed bankruptcy, now got notice of IRS audit. 2010 can only be improvement...right?”
“I'm not a negative person, but this year and decade stunk.”
“It can't possibly be any worse...”
Many people are happy to see 2009 go.
And many people are happy to see another year come because there is at least a chance that it will be better.
I was wondering about all of you.
What was your year like?
Are you looking forward to 2010?
Are you hopeful?
Are you Pessimistic?
Regardless of how you feel about 2009 what should we be looking forward to in the New Year?
What is there to be hopeful about?
I would agree that it does not look good.
In our church, Less people are going to church than ever before.
The ELCA this year was in upheaval.
The national staff had to be cut because people are not giving as much.
In our country, terror is still the rule of the day as we were reminded on Christmas as a man tried to blow up a commercial airplane.
The economy seems to be getting better but it is not getting better very fast.
Many people are still out of work as the national unemployment is still around 10%.
We are still fighting two wars with little to no end in sight.
We have political shouting matches instead of reasoned statesmanship.
Christmas is the reminder to us that into the middle of all this Jesus comes.
This morning’s Christmas Gospel we are treated with the wonderful cosmic scene from John’s Gospel.
We are reminded that through Jesus the “Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
This is what we have to look forward to in 2010.
Not that things will get superficially better, but that we will grow spiritually.
That all the suffering we have endured in the last year was a way for us to grow closer to our families, become better stewards, and reexamine our relationship to God and others.
In 2010 what I hope is that we will grow to be able to see the light.
We are told that John was sent to testify to the light.
John was not the light.
His job was not to point to himself, or his life, but to point people towards Jesus.
To tell everyone that Jesus was the light they were missing in their lives.
Perhaps for us in 2010 we need to take John’s advice and look towards the light.
We need to stop obsessing about the darkness, about what is wrong, what does not work.
Instead, turn our collective attention to Jesus and see what it is that God is up to in our lives.
Here is the real problem with sin.
It is deceptive because it turns us in to only look at ourselves.
It makes us believe that we are the most important people in the world.
That all of our problems are too much.
And worse it makes us think that we can simply think our way out of our problems.
We can somehow make it all better.
That out there we have all the answers and it is only a matter of time before we find them.
What John pointed people to was that the only answer is Jesus.
Because Jesus is the light.
I think of that James Taylor song, “Can't get no light from the dollar bill
Don't give me no light from a TV screen”
We might search for light in other places but only in Jesus do we find the light.
What that light does for us is amazing.
It shines itself on our lives, and opens up new and glorious possibilities.
I know that this sounds great, but it does not come easy.
One of the truths Jesus gave us is that glory comes only after suffering.
Through suffering we come to understand ourselves better, we come to understand God better, and we come to grow in our understanding of the world.
It is why young people might be energetic and optimistic but not very wise.
They have not gleamed the understanding of what really goes into life.
That only when we suffer do we grow into the people God wants us to be.
I want to preface what I am about to say, I do not wish anyone harm or ill will.
If it were up to me no one would ever have anything bad happen to them.
But that is not reality.
I think that this last year with all of the suffering we have endured as individuals and as a country has a lot to teach us about ourselves, our country, our church, and our God.
There are lessons about what we should reasonably expect from our elected officials and our government.
There are lessons about how we should be good stewards of the resources we have.
There are lessons about what is really possible.
There are lessons about the power of our God.
When we suffer, when we go through bad times God is always there helping us learn about ourselves, and our world.
I am not saying God causes the bad things to happen.
I am saying God uses them to teach us, and help us grow.
Think about the lessons of cross.
There we learn about our own ability for sin.
We learn that we reject too often humility, mercy, and love.
We think of strength as bending others to our will.
But Jesus never bent others cohesively to his will.
He loved them and taught them.
We also learn that God overcomes death and sin to rise again.
To create something new and even more glorious.
Jesus is not dead but alive.
And in this new year as we look to Jesus who is the light we can look for ways that we will rise to newness of life.
We can look for the light instead of the darkness.
The light that shine always and beckons us towards it.
The light that is more powerful then the darkness.
For example, one of my good friend’s mother has been in the hospital for months.
She was there originally for aggressive chemo therapy to fight cancer.
While she was there she had a stroke.
At one point we all thought that this was the end of her life on earth.
On New Year’s eve we found out she was going home.
The prayers, the tears, the love prevailed.
The light shines in the darkness.
Last week I went to the celebration of life for Pastor Robert Robb.
I heard stories of a man who loved people, loved his family, loved God, and who went home to be with his Lord.
Because his faith, the faith he preached and taught about told him that death has been destroyed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and so we were able to celebrate his life and not only mourn his passing.
The light shines in the darkness.
What is the story that you will tell.
What will be the ways in which Jesus Christ comes into your dark place and shines His light?
I am here to tell you to expect Jesus the light of the world to be in your life in 2010, and because of that it will only get better.
That even in the dark times God is there using it to form us and to help us grow in our faith and love for one another.
So happy New Year.
When the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overtake it.