Last night, Jama and I rang in the New Year the same way we have for the past maybe ten years. We always go to Hamden, CT, to the home of our best friends. For years this has afforded us the opportunity of exchanging Christmas presents without having to squeeze it in between family and everything else.
At 11:30 PM we always watch the festivities in Times Square. And therein hangs a tale. There must have been half a million people crammed into the eighteen blocks of New York that seems to have become the epicenter of clocking in the New Year. I know they were predicting that 300,000 would show up for First Night in Boston. For 30 minutes we were treated to yelling and bouncing, singing and dancing, and hype, hype, hype. Is there any place on earth on Christmas Eve, other than Rome, perhaps, that generated even a fraction of the crowds that came out to mark the artificially designated distinction between 2010 and 2011?
The psalm for today puts the whole thing in perspective. Not to downplay the efforts of Ryan Seacrest and Dick Clark last night, but here's something to really celebrate:
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
(Psalm 148:1-6 ESV)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote a poem, published in 1850 as part of a tribute to his sister's fiancee, who had died that year at age 22. As we begin another year where we in America are financing two unjust wars (all wars are unjust) and a massive national debt, this poem rings particularly true:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
May the Lord bless you in 2011. But whether you are sensible that he is blessing you or you feel you are living in a pit of despair, whether America's wars continue or come to an end, whether Congress finds a way out of the financial mess we're in, may he give you the grace to put away all that is not of Him, to live in such a way that you yell and bounce and sing and dance, aware each day that He is God.