From the time I was a child, the end of December held dread for me.
There was Christmas to look forward to,
but the end of Christmas was such sadness.
There was no more fun to be had for the year.
Nothing to expect, but a return from vacation to that long stretch of school.
New Year's is my most hated holiday.
It has always felt like a dismal foreboding approaching.
And it made me sad even about Christmas itself.
Over the years, I have noticed that the news itself
conspires against hope particularly at this season:
The end of the world is approaching.
The wicked have come out in force to assert their evil wills over the innocent.
Only in worse ways than you imagined.
The bottom is about to fall out of the economy.
The only solution to these perplexing problems
is to surrender the freedom of law-abiding citizens
(and the tools of self defense),
to pay higher taxes,
and to live in the eternal dark.
But this year, although the darkness of the season
and of the world does oppress me,
I feel a hopeful flutter in my heart.
I am looking forward, though the new year promises no improvement.
One of my Christmas gifts is a book which I anticipate comfort from.
Comfort from one who was comforted in so much grief.
Two children lost within months of each other,
after bouts of miserable sickness which he also suffered.
And while that sounds like a terrible beginning,
he gleaned grace in it,
and offers it up for our edification.
And I intend to eat it.
The book is called Diary of an Old Soul by George MacDonald.
It is a book of poetry he wrote, seven lines every day,
while he wept over his children's deaths.
It is arranged as a devotional.
It is one long poem-prayer
broken into a short seven lines a day.
It is reverent, honest, grieving, and hopeful.
It looks in faith toward Him who conquered death.
And He is the only hope we have in the face of death and sin.
Although it is not January first yet, I cheated and read the first three poems.
And what I read made me, for the first time in my life,
look forward to the new year.
The very first one:
Lord, what I once had done with youthful might,
Had I been from the first true to the truth,
Grant me, now old, to do-- with better sight,
And humbler heart, if not the brain of youth;
So wilt thou, in thy gentleness and ruth,
Lead back thy old soul, by the path of pain,
Round to his best-- young eyes and heart and brain.
Is that not beautiful?
Does it not urge you to get out your dictionary and look up ruth?
I ought to have looked it up long ago -- it is my mother's name.
Compassion for the misery of another.
And yet, all that remains of this sweet word's usage in our culture
is the word ruthless.
Let's change that.