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Grief AND thankfulness: a beautiful poem for the New Year and New Decade

Lynne Baab • Sunday December 29 2019

Grief AND thankfulness: a beautiful poem for the New Year and New Decade

When I think about 2020 and the decade to come, I feel a huge mix of grief and thankfulness. For weeks I’ve been pondering how to write about it. Then I got a Christmas letter with a poem in it that helps me describe what I’ve been thinking about. This is a nativity homily from more than 1300 years ago. Saint Isaac the Syrian (also known as Isaac of Nineveh) lived from about 613 A.D. to about 700. As you read it, notice the resonance with the issues we face today.

This Christmas night bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;

This is the night of the Most Gentle One –
Let no one be cruel;

This is the night of the Humble One –
Let no one be proud.

Now is the day of joy –
Let us not revenge;

Now is the day of Good Will –
Let us not be mean.

In this Day of Peace –
Let us not be conquered by anger.

Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake;
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.

Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.

This present Day casts open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.

Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity,
In order for humanity to be decorated by the seal of divinity.

Christ is Born!
Glorify Him!

I am so thankful for the relationships in my life: family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. I grieve that my supply of love for them runs out too soon, and I can be critical, brusque and full of unkind thoughts. I know this pattern, and all the ones I’m writing about here, will continue into the New Year and the New Decade. I long for the peace, gentleness, humility and good will described in the poem.

I am thankful for creative work, both paid and unpaid. I grieve that many people are unemployed or underemployed.

I am thankful for my home, the food on the table, the physical and emotional warmth here. I grieve for the homeless, displaced, refugees.

I’m grateful for the weekly dinner at my church for the whole community, including homeless people and others in need of a meal and welcoming place. I grieve for those who don’t have food and welcome.

I am thankful for so many acts of kindness and generosity in the world, and I grieve for the mean spiritedness I read about in the news every day.

I rejoice in the beauty of creation, and I grieve that we aren’t taking care of God’s handiwork as we should and could.

I am so, so, so grateful for our Lord Jesus, who embodies gentleness, humility, good will, and generosity, and who brings peace and forgivenes, as Saint Isaac described 1300 years ago. I grieve that the same things Saint Isaac exhorted his listeners to do are so sorely needed today. 

Lord, as we enter a new year and a new decade, give us grateful hearts and help us enter into your compassion for the world. Help us to grieve honestly and without self-criticism, and help us to lay aside the grief at the right times to celebrate your gifts. As Saint Isaac wrote so many years ago, help us to honor you by reflecting your character in the world.

Next week: grief AND thankfulness in my own conversion story. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.

This is the ninth post in a series on grief AND thankfulness. You can find the first post here, and the other follow along afterwards.

Earlier posts I have written for the New Year:



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