I first became familiar with the phrase annus horribilis back in 1992, when Queen Eliza- beth used it to describe the unpleasant events that the Royal Family had undergone that year. The phrase is Latin, and it means, simply, “horrible year.” Looking back on it, 2016 has been something of an annus horribilis for me and my family. Some of you know that I lost my mother in April, but in addition, my wife Wendy has undergone several surgeries, requiring a long period of recovery. There were certainly highlights, including our daughter’s graduation from college, a long-awaited trip to the Holy Land, and the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908. But I will readily admit that the losses and challenges cast a pall over even those happy occasions.
While these events were specific to the way I and my family experienced this past year, I am well aware that I am not alone in being relieved to see 2016 in my rear view mirror. No doubt many of you reading this have experienced your own losses and struggles. But I am also speaking in the general sense of this having been a tough year for our country and for the world. An ugly presidential campaign, terrorist attacks, the heartbreak of Aleppo, a terrible hurricane and devastating fires in Tennesee, have buffeted the spirits of us all.
So yes, many of us are ready to say goodbye to 2016, and embrace the turning of the year. We do this every year, but some years are more easily let go of than others. And we do it, not because there is something magic about January 1 that makes the hurts and struggles of the previous year suddenly disappear, or because we have any way of guaranteeing that the new year will be a whole lot better than the last. But, especially for people of faith, at least, there is this thing called Hope; Hope that somehow things can be better, that even perennial problems can be solved, that we can learn from past mistakes and make better choices. Hope is what makes the New Year new.
I mentioned the Cubs’ World Series victory as a highlight of 2016. I grew up rooting for the Chicago Cubs, a team that was even more heartbreaking than the Red Sox. But one of the things that helped me keep hope alive was the attitude exemplified by my favorite Cub, Ernie Banks. Each year Banks would come up with a slogan to express his undying hope that this year would be the year for the Cubs to turn it around. “The Cubs will be great in ’68.” “The Cubs will be fine in ’69.” It was as if he was saying, “Last year may have been an annus horribi- lis, but that doesn’t mean that this year can’t be an annus mirabilis,” which is, as you have probably guessed, is antithesis of the annus horribilis, and means “wonderful year.”
Keep hope alive, keep trusting in God, keeping loving God and each other, and who knows, maybe, just maybe, 2017 will be a year to celebrate. In any case, Happy New Year, and many prayers and wishes for an annus mirabilis for you and yours.
In evergreen love, Pastor Tom