Christmas is about God being with us.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). – Matthew 1:23
Then the New Year is about going into the unknown, which seems an odd thing to celebrate, when you think about it. But with Immanuel, it all works.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. (Excerpt of “God Knows” by Minnie Louise Haskins)
When we first went to live in rural Africa, some thought that was imprudent. We have always believed that going where God leads with him is safer than than going somewhere that seems safer without him.
In late December 2008, Kenya held presidential elections. The results were delayed, tension mounted, when one candidate was named the winner in an unusual way, violence started. We were there. We could hear gunshots, see people running in the streets. We hunkered down and waited it out. Hundreds died. People were displaced. Property losses where huge. It took it about 10 days to run its course while we stayed safely locked inside for the most part. Then it was safe again. Read a fuller report here.
We did not expect trouble. Neither did Kenyans who thought their country was a step above the kind of election troubles seen in some other countries in Africa. We were relieved when it ended, but they were disheartened. Their pride in their country had been brought low.
We resumed work shortly after New Years. On the first day, one of my Kenyan colleagues greeted me with a New Year’s greeting I had never heard before: Happy New Year Regardless.
Regardless means “despite the prevailing circumstances”. So, whatever situation, may the Lord be with you in 2014 with his loving and comforting presence. In other words: