The Best Possible New Year’s Wish

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Rick MarschallThe recent lunar eclipse is the last the northern hemisphere will see for a number of years. Its coincidence with the Winter solstice was the first in three centuries. Our New Year’s Day, 1-1-11, is the last such group of numbers until… oh, you get it.

If you think hard enough, EVERY day is the last of this or the first of that.

As Christians, we should see life that way. Every regret or painful memory, for instance, can be filed under “past” because we have forgiveness and a new life offered by Jesus. And no matter what else is going on, TODAY can be the start of amazing things you can do, and God can do through you.

There is a traditional Irish blessing (set here to music and beautiful photographs) that is both appropriate for any day, between friends, as we are; and to think upon this New Year.

It set me thinking about Ireland’s role in Christian history. At one point, in Europe, Rome fell to barbarians, sacked and pillaged. The trappings of “civilization” and Christianity were put to flight. To a great extent, learning and biblical spirituality were pushed westward, until the Atlantic Ocean became a watery end-of-the-road. In Ireland, in isolated monasteries and abbeys, the Bible was copied by hand; faith was kept alive; Christian traditions were nurtured. There were pockets of believers elsewhere, of course, but largely it was a persecuted church. It was the “Dark Ages,” but things were not so dark in those places where the flame of faith was kept glowing.

I have a feeling that the decade we enter this weekend will be characterized as a decade of Christian persecution. It won’t be the last, but there is no reason to think that the attacks on believers we see in the news (and many we don’t), weekly and now daily around the world, will not grow in intensity or ferocity. These happen in North Korea, China, Iraq, Egypt, Russia, Cuba, India… and Western Europe and Canada and the United States.

Erosion of religious liberty, mockery of our Christian heritage, “legal” restrictions on the exercise of our faith and sharing our beliefs – classifying portions of the Bible as “hate speech” is only one of countless examples – confirm that no place in the world is safe from attack. Just as The Son of Man, we believers will have “no place to lay our heads,” spiritually speaking.

When the Irish “saved civilization” and preserved Western Christianity for a season, it was the geographical firewall. Today, in the global community with new media, each one of us – individuals who have received the Great Commission from Jesus Himself – will need to be virtual monasteries unto ourselves: Holding the Word close; keeping the flame of faith alive; nurturing Christian tradition.

I wish you not a path devoid of clouds, nor a life on a bed of roses,
Not that you might never need regret,
nor that you should never feel pain.

No, that is not my wish for you.
My wish for you is:

That you might be brave in times of trial,
when others lay crosses upon your shoulders.
When mountains must be climbed and chasms are to be crossed,
When hope can scarce shine through.
That every gift God gave you might grow with you
and let you give your gift of joy to all who care for you.
That you may always have a Friend who is worth that name,
whom you can trust and who helps you in times of sadness,
Who will defy the storms of daily life at your side.

One more wish I have for you:
That in every hour of joy and pain you may feel God close to you.
This is my wish for you and for all who care for you.
This is my hope for you now and forever.

-- anonymous Irish blessing

Rick Marshall is the author of more than 60 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture to history and criticism; country music, television history, biography, and childrens books He can be reached at