Best Wishes for a Bright and Beautiful New Year
Throughout December, I can be found walking through my neighborhood to observe the Christmas lights. I live in New Jersey, so trust me when I say that this is time well spent. The displays are elaborate and generally involve a certain amount of poetic license with the original Biblical nativity account (my current favorite includes both penguins and flamingos in the stable). I’ve always had a fondness for the tasteful and tacky creativity of these decorations, and finding the “best” displays is a beloved part of my family’s Christmas celebration.
This year, however, I had mixed feelings about the holiday lights. Normally, I’m comforted by this ancient tradition, the human desire to combat the changing of the seasons with light, to fight against the shortness of days and the long, dark nights. But now, months after Hurricane Sandy devastated my home state, many families in New Jersey had no Christmas lights – or any lights. Or heat. Or businesses. Or homes.
This year, for many, many people, it has not been a joyous holiday season. It has been difficult and, sometimes, gut-wrenching. Communities, families and individuals have suffered. We have observed, and experienced, inconceivable loss. If my emotional state is any indication, many of us feel a deep and abiding sadness.
And yet, this Sunday, my church’s choir will sing Mendelssohn’s beautiful “There Shall a Star from Jacob:”
As bright the star of morning gleams,
So Jesus sheddeth glorious beams
Of light and consolation!
I feel and observe this light and consolation first hand every day at work. Not in what Episcopal Relief & Development gives to others, but in what all of us together –partners, colleagues, supporters – give to each other. I am warmed when a family has a secure place to sleep, I am fed when farmers raise successful crops, I am protected when people are sheltered in emergencies. And I know that, together, we are a light against the darkness of hunger, disease and disaster, even in our sadness and despair.
To you and yours, best wishes for a bright and beautiful New Year.
Esther Cohen is the Chief Operatiing Officer at Episcopal Relief & Development.