A year ago we welcomed 2016 as a bouncing baby boy, wearing nothing but a diaper, a top hat and a sash. In these final days, we are watching 2016 shuffle off the stage beaten, bruised and battered, with shaggy hair and slumped shoulders, his sash tattered and torn. It has been a rough year.
Along the way we said goodbye to celebrities who shaped our landscape: Florence Henderson, mother of the Brady Bunch; Leonard Cohen who taught us to sing “Hallelujah;” Merle Haggard, the “Okie from Muskogee” who died on his 79th birthday; Arnold Palmer, “The King” of golf; Gene Wilder, who took us on wild journeys through a Chocolate Factory, aboard the Silver Streak and Blazing Saddles. We said goodbye to Muhammad Ali who “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. ” We wished a final “God speed” to John Glenn, who inspired us with the “Right Stuff.” There are many others.
More importantly, we remember those whose names few others know. We remember those who, in quiet ways with little fanfare, inspired us with their courage, faith and love. The Washington Post ran a collection of stories about such people this week, written by some of their best writers titled, “Grace Unwrapped, stories that prove kindness blossoms during the holidays.”
Each of us have family and friends who left legacies of faith and courage. I think of my father. When he was diagnosed with multiple-myeloma in 1974 and volunteered for experimental drugs, knowing the risk. He died 2 years later at age 53 leaving a legacy of courage, faith and friendship. He was a blue collar worker who was employed by Bell Telephone for 25 years. The day before he died he sent a get-well card to a friend on another floor of the hospital where he was fighting for his life. Hundreds attended his funeral. My mother lived as a widow for 35 years and, like my father, left a legacy of faith, courage and love. The day before she died she visited with her grandchildren, prayed with them and blessed them. She was 89.
The Bible teaches us to look back and remember people who can inspire us. Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who left a legacy of faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets.
As we turn our eyes toward 2017, we can draw from those who have blessed our lives. We can face our challenges with courage and hope. As the Hebrews writer concludes, “Seeing we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).