The year 2020 is almost over. And many people are breathing a sigh of relief. People all over the world have dubbed it as the worst year in memory. Economic downturns. Environmental disasters (it seems like a lifetime ago but the year began with devastating fires across Australia). Racial violence. Civil unrest. And of course, the story that dominates every news outlet: the COVID-19 pandemic. I myself have had my share of personal loss. Among several other things, the most devastating being that my father passed away in November. On so many levels 2020 has not been a good year.
Even with all that, I find it almost an exercise in superstition for people to be excited that this year is drawing to a close. Anticipating the end of 2020 has been a running gag for the past several months, prompting comparisons to Jumanji: one month went from bad to worse as we advanced through each new “level.” But are there people who truly believe that the problem is actually with 2020? How seriously do people take the idea that turning the calendar will change things?
We celebrate the “new year” on January 1st, but time isn’t discreetly apportioned in this way. January 1 is a continuation of the flow of time and events that occurred on December 31. New Year’s Day 2021 will be a Friday that will follow a Thursday, just as Friday follows Thursday every other week. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer: the dawning of 2021 won’t magically rectify all the craziness that 2020 has wrought merely because the year’s numerical designation has increased by 1.
The hope of 2021 lies in our ability to make good choices. We will reap in the future what we have sown in the past ... and in our present. Our current actions will dictate what type of year 2021 – and subsequent years – will be like.
Because this year has been so tragic to so many people on so many levels, the “end of the world” has been referenced on more than one occasion. Yet even that is dependent on our actions. According to Scripture we are not passive observers in Earth’s history. If Matthew 24 is to be believed, the proclamation of the Gospel is tied to the Second Coming. And in this interconnected internet era we have been able to share the Word more efficiently than ever. If anything positive has come out of this year it has been the fact that churches everywhere have been d̶r̶a̶g̶g̶e̶d̶ ̶k̶i̶c̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶s̶c̶r̶e̶a̶m̶i̶n̶g̶ motivated to incorporate technology into their ministries. Although several congregations have been disappointed, many people who otherwise would never have set foot into a church were exposed to the Word because of these changes. And, quiet as it’s kept, several church members have rediscovered their own personal relationship with God in ways that would not have happened without being jostled from their church routine and familiar congregational meetings. Which brings us to the other way in which we are told that our actions are intertwined with the end of earth’s history: in 2 Peter 3, we read that Christ is not slow as humans count slowness – He is longsuffering and providing time for those who aren’t ready yet to get ready. He’s patiently waiting for us. So, instead of ruminating about what comes next in the “Jumanji Levels,” perhaps our foci should be more internal. Are we/are you/am I ready for Jesus to come? That is one thing we can directly affect.
I am not a prophetess. Nor am I the daughter of a prophet. My father, Charles V. Ray, was an artist, postal worker and army veteran. But prophet he was not. So I don’t claim to have any inside knowledge about what 2021 will bring. I have no idea when Christ will return. All I know is that the Parousia will be as a thief coming in the night. I set no dates. I can only say that it will be “soon.” And if Christ tarries longer and the Second Coming doesn’t occur in 2021, we need to determine in our hearts to make intentional choices that will make the New Year a better one than 2020 has been. 2021 will be what we make of it.
Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD is an ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and President of the Society for Black Neuropsychology.
Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found at:
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