At this time of year, I tend to get hung up either on clogging nostalgia for the good old days or anxiety about the year ahead.
I conveniently forget how humorist Art Buchwald recommended to the graduating class at Vassar College in 1975 that if they thought yesterday was better than today, they should not wait ten years before admitting today was great. They should simply pretend today was yesterday and go out and have a fantastic time!
A far more serious columnist, Mark Galli, handles my brand of anxiety about the new year crisply and helpfully in his new book, Beautiful Orthodoxy (Christianity Today, 2016).
All hearts are restless and angry, he suggests, until they find their rest in the Son of God. And he draws support from the wisdom of a team of deep thinkers including Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Dorothy Sayers.
Harold Smith’s foreword to Galli’s book also provides some invaluable perspective on an age in which he says “the tone of our rhetoric—across all media and even behind some closed church doors—is more rage than redemption … more disgrace than grace.”
Smith writes: “In a world in desperate need of truth, goodness, and beauty, we have the privilege of communicating the breadth of the true, good, and beautiful Gospel in our words, in our actions, and in our lives.”
Galli takes it from there, in just 73 pages suggesting how we can experience the goodness, truth, and beauty of a life in Christ. He also provides some helpful observations on mercy, including:
“Mercy treats the sinner with kindness and patience, but also—precisely because mercy wants the best for everyone—helps the immoral person see what new life in Christ looks like.”
Galli is explicit on Christ Jesus’ call for action on our part. He points out that Jesus has not left us with vague feelings about doing what is right, but with specific and concrete commands that relate to compelling Bible narratives.
I think, for example, of rallying calls such as “Heal the sick,” “Cleanse the lepers,” “Raise the dead,” and “Cast out demons” (see Matthew 10:8) which are an integral part of my daily study of Christian Science.
Those words, around a cross and crown, are an emblem on the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. They encapsulate the gospel of Truth at the heart of Eddy’s writing and at the heart of Galli’s message.
Time and again, Galli shows us how the good, the true, and the beautiful enrich our lives. He insists that a basic common good is important not only for the smooth running of society, but also as a way of “letting our neighbors taste little bits of grace.”
If we respond to Galli’s urging in the months ahead, I doubt that we’ll have much time for anxiety or nostalgia. Not when we trustfully accept that God’s tender mercies really are new every morning (see Lamentations 3:23) and that the best kind of nostalgia doesn’t relate to the good old days but to the vivid remembrance of God’s ongoing “loving kindnesses”—which “have been ever of old” (Psalms 25:6).