By Rev. Dr. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister

Every year around this time all the TV stations usually come out with their “The Year in Review” shows that highlight all the major events of the past year. I seldom watch them because I lived through the year and feel I can probably remember the key moments most of the time. This year I haven’t seen any of those retrospectives advertised. This could be because I watch so little live television these days. Nearly everything I watch is either sports (yes, they’re live), online, or streamed from one of the major streaming networks. The other reason could be that networks are afraid people are feeling a lot like me this year. I really don’t want to watch a “greatest hits” of 2020. 2020 hit too hard. I’m hurting and in pain, and I don’t want to relive any of that! I say, “turn the page and move on.”

Are you ready to be done with 2020? Even if you are, the reality is that this transition to a new year is just a made-up division. Our calendar is created to help us keep track of time and events, but bears little difference beyond that. In all likelihood the world will not change significantly from December 31, 2020 to January 1, 2021. However, for me this year’s change over brings with it a lot more promise.

Normally I only look forward to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with mild interest. This could be because when Elizabeth and I were dating as teenagers (yes, it’s been that long!) we always seemed to get into a fight on New Year’s Eve. But more likely it is because I am always a little sad to see the past year go. No matter what year I’m saying goodbye to, there were important happenings and milestones that took place. I’m always a little sad to see them move along and be placed in the “remember when” bucket. This isn’t to say that there aren’t good things I’m looking forward to in the year ahead, only that I’m mildly saddened to say goodbye some years.

2020 is different. There were undoubtedly good times and milestones that took place this year, but I am more than ready to move on. Everything this year has been overshadowed by the pandemic and the dramatic changes it has had on our lives. Not to mention the more than 300,000 people who have died as a direct result of Covid-19 in the US, or 1.7 million around the world. That’s a lot of grieving. That’s a lot of loss.

The strange thing is that Covid-19 and the pandemic measures are going to be with us well into 2021. The most recent news that I heard is that most people won’t be receiving vaccines until summer or even into the fall. That isn’t definite for it was only a few weeks ago I was thinking I might be in line for a vaccine by early spring. Who knows? What we do know is that life for most of 2021 may look a lot like life for most of 2020.

So why am I optimistic? The short answer is because of hope. I hope that 2021 will see the end of this. I hope that at some point in 2021 we will be able to worship in person. And not just gather as few of us in the building, but perhaps have everyone present AND be able to sing together, shake hands, and greet each other without masks. Wouldn’t that be special? Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

This hope brings with it a whole lot of questions. Like, what will our membership look like when we return? Will we lose members? Will we gain members? What will the needs of the community be at that time? How will things have changed? Will we be comfortable touching each other? Hugging? Singing? How long will it take for us to once again feel relaxed in a room with a large number of people? What challenges will these changes bring up? How will we handle things financially? Emotionally? Spiritually? Will we need to do ice-breakers at worship so we can remember who everyone else is?

A few things are certain. One is that God is with us now and will be with us then. This pandemic tests each of us continually. Yet we are not alone in this struggle. We have each other and we have God. It is a comfort to me knowing that the church (and the people that make it up) has been through trying times and survived. We will too. God will see us through this and all that is to come. This is the second certainty. We will get through this. We may not know how things will be different on “the other side”. But we will get through and have the assurance that we can handle whatever awaits us. I truly believe that.

The last certainty is this: I’m ready. I’m done. 2020 can move along. It’s time to turn the page and see what the future holds.