Humans are meaning making creatures. By our nature, we cannot be at rest in a world that feels senseless and without order. When faced with the incomprehensibility of things we will develop elaborate conspiracy theories long before we admit our inability to make meaning of our days. Even now I am exhausted by the way events have stretched on long past the point of being able to make a tidy summery. I cannot understand all that I have seen this year and it leaves me anxious at times.
In the mail yesterday I received my January 2021 National Geographic magazine with the cover feature “2020: Photographs From an Unforgettable Year.” I thumbed through page after page of masked faces and isolated people staring bleakly out of apartment windows. Black Lives Matter protestors raised their fists in resistance and COVID patients lay vulnerably prone in hospital beds. Republicans and Democrats anxiously kept watch as votes were counted and recounted and recounted. A single graveside photo of a funeral stands in for the 1.8 million people who have died from COVID worldwide—one family representing the grief of millions.
I do not yet know how I will remember 2020 or if 2021 will bring relief from the near constant disruption to life as expected. Our efforts to control events and project outcomes have proven meaningless, frustrated by forces beyond our comprehension. And the tighter we hold on to our expected outcomes the more fearful and angry we become. How will we repair the rifts that have developed between friends and neighbors when we cannot agree to the basic facts or the meaning of our common life?
The one source of great comfort for me and cause for celebration in this disorienting time is the Incarnation. God is near, as near and present to us as the baby Jesus in the arms of his mother. And yet he mysteriously gave up none of this divinity. Jesus is the center, the steady anchor in our chaos and the final meaning maker when we are senseless to the times in which we live.
In praise of the supremacy of Jesus, Paul writes in Colossians 1 (NTE):
15 He is the image of God, the invisible one, the firstborn of all creation.
16 For in him all things were created, in the heavens and here on the earth.
Things we can see and things we cannot, – thrones and lordships and rulers and powers –
all things were created both through him and for him.
17 And he is ahead, prior to all else and in him all things hold together;
18 and he himself is supreme, the head over the body, the church.
He is the start of it all, firstborn from realms of the dead; so in all things he might be the chief.
19 For in him all the Fullness was glad to dwell 20and through him to reconcile all to himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, through him – yes, things on the earth, and also the things in the heavens.
I have no other hope for the new year ahead may unfold. Today as I attempted to pay good money to renew a membership for an activity for my children, the salesman asked me, “Why?” I offered a hopeful, “Well, don’t you think at some point in 2021…?” He looked at me with pity and said, “Wait and see. There’s no harm in waiting to see what happens.” I do believe he is right.
The one thing I am certain of is that Jesus is king over all that is seen and unseen. He holds all things together, from creation to present, and he is reconciling all things to himself. I cannot see a month or even a week out to begin to piece together an understanding of my own life. But I am held secure in Christ who is our only hope and peace.