This new year already doesn’t seem right somehow. I suppose I’ll get over that. Though after seeing the old year out and the new one in the same way for a quarter of a century, change is hard.
Last night we didn’t count down to midnight with the same group of friends we have shared New Years Eve with for decades. Times change. Last year when we counted down to midnight together it was Central European Time – 6 p.m. for everyone except my wife and me. We just couldn’t stay up all night, so our friends humoured us as we got together online.
The same group, with a couple of changes, has been meeting for New Year’s for more than 25 years. My wife and I missed one gathering, which is why the streak isn’t 30 years. There was one year I wasn’t willing to risk my mother-in-law’s wrath by taking a newborn child to a country farmhouse. My wife wanted to go; I wanted her mother to like me.
This group of friends meets in an Ottawa area retreat centre twice annually for a weekend of good food and good conversation. We’ve been through a lot over the years, good times and bad. When we get together each person, each couple, takes the time to share about their lives since our last meeting. Then the rest of the group prays for them. It is a simple thing, but it is what being the Church is all about. Once there were no children at the retreat, then we had toddlers underfoot, now once again, as we all face retirement, the children (and grandchildren) usually don’t join us.
Last year, with us unable to be in Ottawa, we were privileged to join by Skype. We missed the food, but not the fellowship. We did that again this year, but, by prearrangement, we didn’t go to midnight in Germany. This was the year for new ways to see in a new year. (Next year we hope to all be together and start a new streak.)
So, I am not completely sure that it is 2019 already, the year didn’t start with the usual rituals. Except it did. My friends and I got together (online at least) and prayed for each other. What more can I ask? The countdown to midnight is an artificial thing, the friendship and prayers are the reality.
There is something special about having a group of people with whom you have a special bond, one tested by time. Death, divorce, illness, we’ve had to deal with them all, but we haven’t had to deal with them alone. We don’t need to see each other often to have a bond.
We are different people with very different interests. What we share that makes it work, what drew us together in the first place, is a common faith. Our expressions of it may different, but that doesn’t matter. Jesus is front and centre, the first member of our group.
We live in a world where people are disconnected, where “social media” can frequently be antisocial and real friendships are rare. My prayer for you as we enter this new year is that you too can experience the real community that starts by first having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Happy new year!