A new year is just around the bend. We can sense it, but we can’t see it yet, and we know not what it will hold. At this time of year, we all share the anticipation of newness, the hope of prosperity, the joy of love, the expectation of blessings and the optimism of change for the better.
With a touch of Southern tradition, many will place stock in the New Year’s Day meal, hoping for financial prosperity. Mom made pork chops, which signify prosperity in some cultures. Apparently, pigs root forward. Certainly the New Year is no time to look backward, only toward the future.
Accompanying the pork chops was Hoppin’ John, a blend of rice and black-eyed peas that originated in the 1800s, which represented coins. Cornbread represented gold. I could buy into all of that, but then she had to add the dreaded collard greens. I am one southerner that hates collard greens.
The first time I tried collards, I gagged. It was an automatic reflex. Every New Year that I lived under my mother’s rule (“take one bite of everything on your plate"), I gagged on my one tiny bite of these disgusting greens. Every year that she made me eat one bite, I gagged. That memory stays with me, and I haven’t tasted a collard green for over 40 years. I don’t intend to, either. I don’t enjoy gagging.
That New Year’s meal signified financial prosperity. Jesus enjoyed a traditional dinner as well. Dining with his disciples during Passover after a three-year ministry on earth, he used the meal to explain the significance of the food. The meal had nothing to do with financial prosperity or good luck; instead, it was sated with spiritual meaning.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’ When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:26-30).
As I head around the bend tomorrow, I cannot imagine what will be awaiting me. I experienced momentous change in 2017 with the death of my husband. The reality of his failing health was undeniable, but I awoke each day for the first seven months of the year with hope in my heart and tasks to accomplish to assure his comfort. In the early part of the eighth month, God called him home as he peacefully slept.
Around the bend toward 2018, I am painfully aware that what we hope for, what we anticipate, what we expect may not always be what we get. I enter this New Year with a healthy dose of reality, that neither meal nor resolution can replace the simple trust I put in the meal shared by Jesus and his disciples. That meal had true meaning for living with and accepting whatever is around the bend.
One thing I know. In 2018, God will lead me to places, people and events of which I am completely unaware. Am I ready to follow? I hope so. Perhaps the road will be as difficult as the one I traveled in 2017. Perhaps not. Regardless, I know that wherever I go, whatever I do, whoever I meet, my Lord will be with me on the straightway and right around the bend to accompany me on the journey of 2018.
It’s his meal that gives my New Year meaning.