It's a New Year. New years are good. I mean if the last year wasn't so hot, it's a good thing that we've moved on to a New Year. Notice that I capitalized the words "New Year." I did that because that's the way it always seems to be written when we are talking about the year that's coming in. It's a New Year. So, I guess that means we are supposed to shout about it. So here goes: Happy New Year. Technically, we ought to say: I hope you have a Happy New Year. Just saying Happy New Year really doesn't mean anything. I mean, how do we know it's a happy new year? If we wish something to be, then we ought to say so.
This "holiday season" had me paying closer attention to things than I ever have. For example, I actually found myself listening to the lyrics of Christmas carols. I discovered that for the most part, I found the lyrics a bit confusing. I love the melodies but the words are either too cute by half -- "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" -- or not exactly a usual part of my vocabulary -- "Angels we have heard on high." I found myself somewhat befuddled by the meaning of it all. I saw my friends totally stressed out about buying just the right gifts and others stressed about the long trip to visit family. Some of my friends stressed about both of those things. I could not miss the irony that stress finds a way to dominate a time of year that is supposed to be so joyful. As a matter of fact, I think the only time we ever hear the word "joyful" is during this time of year. We need more joyful days. We need more joy in our lives. We certainly need less stress. But I digress.
The other thing I've been thinking about this holiday season is the spirituality of it. Clearly this is a birthday that is being celebrated of a man who many in the world view as the Savior. Surely this is a solemn occasion as well as a joyful one.
So, I spent some time thinking about exactly what the meaning of this season is and how it could be translated into a happy new year. I opened up a book for some wisdom to put it all together. I wanted to see the guidance I could glean from the Bible. I wanted to see how it addressed the issue that I find myself ensconced in every day: hunger.
Matthew 25:35 says: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Now those are words to live by. And, in fact, if more of us heeded those words, I suspect we could end hunger. Ah, if only giving them food and drink were enough. It is enough for today. It does not answer the question we must ask, however: what about tomorrow? While we live in the present we must constantly think about the future and work today to create the change for tomorrow. If we do not, we are perpetuating a stasis that is unhealthy and unsustainable. We need to look for solutions to ending seemingly intractable problems. We need to seek answers from within and without and then practice what we preach.
Isaiah 58:10 said: "If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday."
Yes, this is the true meaning of this season. It is our moral obligation to pour ourselves out for the hungry and the poor. And we must not do it only during the holiday season. Hunger is not seasonal. Poverty is a year-round noose. We must work hard to better our world/our country/our neighborhood -- and the lives of those who live there.Hands that help are holy. James 2:14-18 reminds us:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
The Talmud explains that feeding the hungry is one of our most important responsibilities on earth: "When you are asked in the world to come, 'What was your work?' And you answer: 'I fed the hungry,' you will be told: 'This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you have fed the hungry.'" (Midrash to Psalm 118:17).
This is my New Year resolution: I will feed the hungry. Will it be yours too?
May you have a Happy New Year. May you make it happy for someone else.