The last lectionary reading for this calendar year contains Simeon’s Song (Luke 2:22-). Simeon was an old, prayerful man who lived in expectation of the salvation of Israel. When he saw the infant Jesus, he asked God to let him leave this life now, in peace, because his hopes were fulfilled. Of course, he was wrong. Israel was destroyed sixty or so years later and his people, the Jews, were hounded round the world and persecuted by every dictator on the planet, and by several democracies, for 2000 years and counting. However, even though he got that bit wrong, he was joyful to see and understand the role of, or rather the potential of, Jesus; and he was right about that.
We are all on the way out, sooner or later, Joy, Oh Joy! One of the events that make this inevitable exit from life bearable is in welcoming and recognising the potential of children to make a difference to the world you are leaving. Given the chance to live for ever, or to die peacefully after meeting a new baby, I know which I should choose.
You may have noticed that this is New Year’s Eve. I hope that you are thinking seriously about some really good resolutions to make at midnight. I hope too that you come to these decisions after a thorough review of the success of last year’s resolutions, their successful implementation, and the positive effect on your life. However, this column is for those who can’t remember what last year’s resolutions were, and who can therefore begin with a clean slate, or tabula rasa as one of our ancestors might have called it.
We should first write on the clean slate “This may be my last year”. Our resolutions should then prepare us for a peaceful exit. We need to believe that our lives have been worth it; that the world has benefited from our presence; that we can go and leave it in the hands of others, whatever subsequently happens. These resolutions count…
So, I suggest that we take resolutions that we must see Machu Picchu one last time or that we must really start renewing our wardrobes or get the drive resurfaced, and consign them all to the bin. Erase the tablet and start again. What is going to happen to all the possessions to which we cling as drowning sailors to wreckage? Who is going to treasure them, who is going to take them to the tip, or sell them to a house-clearance agency? Now is not too early to begin some clear-outs. What is going to happen to such wealth as we leave behind? Are we going to leave it to our descendants, so that they can visit Machu Picchu, renew their wardrobes, or get their drives resurfaced? Or are we going to leave it to some more worthwhile cause that will ensure it is used for the public good, to relieve poverty, or to create facilities for people living isolated lives?
What about those whose lives would be improved by a demonstration of our love, or indebtedness to them? How about a resolution to say “Thank you” rather more; to tell people how much we appreciate them, their friendship, their work for the community? How about a resolution to write each week to someone whom we will never meet, but whose life has affected us in some way? Not an email, a real letter in an envelope; buy the stamps now from Pickles while they are still cheap. Let us so make resolutions tonight that, whenever we get the tap on the shoulder to say “The party is not over, but you have to leave”, we can put our coats on in peace, like Simeon.