This Sunday is, of course, New Year's Eve, and many folks all over will be celebrating the beginning of another year in one fashion or another. One tradition is to make New Year's Resolutions, but I have to admit that those usually fail me. Or I fail at them. I wonder if this Sunday will see a general uptake in church attendance; perhaps people will resolve to be more faithful in being part of a church and will start that off on New Year's Eve. (I'm almost certain there will be more folks in church this year than there would be had New Year's Eve fallen on a Saturday, but i'll leave you to make your own conclusions there.) Whether we make resolutions for the coming year or not, I'm fairly certain that by now our traditional greetings have morphed from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy New Year." I know mine have, even though I don't always mean to say that; it just sort of comes out, especially if someone else says it to me first.
We know of course (or at least we should) that not every one of the next 365 days is going to be happy for everyone, no matter how much we may wish them to be. I suppose it's part of the cultural idealism of America to expect that they not only will be but that they should be. While we certainly don't need to be Eeyore like in out outlook on the future, at the same time life isn't always easy or happy, and when it isn't, we shouldn't think that means that something has gone wrong. We have our ups and downs, our joys and our sorrows, our triumphs and our failures. What I really mean to say to folks is that i wish them shalom in the coming year. I've tried making a habit of that, but despite my best intentions, it never seems to come off the way i mean it to.
Shalom is the Hebrew word for "peace," and our habit of exchanging the Peace during the Eucharist comes from the Jewish practice of greeting one another with that word. Our definition of peace, however, doesn't quite manage to contain all that shalom means. Shalom is a form of blessing; it is way of saying "May everything God has in store for you come to pass;" it is also a way of acknowledging that our relationship with one another is right and good and as it should be. Shalom, and the peace that comes with it, isn't dependent on our life being happy every single day; instead, it comes from the knowledge that God is with us and at work in our lives whether we are in the midst of joy or in sorrow, in triumph or despair. It is what is contained in the famous phrase of Julian of Norwich, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be very well."
Whatever you are doing to celebrate the coming of the New Year, and in whatever state of happiness you find yourself during the year, I wish you shalom.