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Looking back, Looking forward. 

What will 2017 hold for us?

The cheers went forth, as thousands looked up at the Star rising above them.

"Good bye, 2016! Hello, 2017!"
 
If CNN.com, Twitter, and Facebook are any indication of the national sentiment, then there are a lot of folks who were eager to see 2016 come to an end.
 
Much of that concern and frustration came from the seemingly unprecedented number of deaths of cultural icons like: Prince, Glenn Fry, Muhammed Ali, Harper Lee, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Nancy Reagan, Antonin Scalia, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds.
 
Yet, even beyond those celebrity deaths, there were many other brutal aspects of the year that was;
 
In Chicago, 762 people created in the image of God were murdered. In addition to that, there were over 3,500 shootings. In Orlando, 49 people created in the image of God were gunned down in a single evening at the Pulse nightclub. In Syria, nearly 50,000 people created in the image of God were killed as the civil war in that country continues to devastate a country and a people. The Zika virus claimed the flourishing of many children in the southern hemisphere.
 
Closer to home, some of us said our final goodbyes to loved ones. Others heard the word cancer, or “we’re downsizing.” Yes, it was a tough year.
 
That said, there were also some highlights.
 
A certain local baseball team won the World Series for the first time since the Ottoman Empire was in power. A new Star Wars movie was released. Justice prevailed as former dictator Hissene Habre of Chad, and former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic, were both convicted of crimes against humanity and genocide. A 50-year-old civil war ended Colombia. Some of us attended weddings, celebrated births and anniversaries, and others received promotions at work.
 
So, what is in store in 2017?
 
Probably, more of the same. There will be suffering and death, and there will be rejoicing and new life.
 
Amid all of that, it is easy to lose track of some simple, yet monumental truths.
 
We are children of the God who made the heavens and the earth. We serve a God who is declared to us over and over again to be a God of steadfast love and faithfulness. Our God sent his Son to enter into our suffering and declare the good news of redemption and restoration through the gospel. Christ was crucified for our sins, and raised to declare victory over suffering and death. His Holy Spirit dwells within us to encourage, comfort, and empower us.
 
As long as we are living as exiles in this world, we will continue to experience the joys and sorrows of this world. Fortunately, no matter what we read in the news, or experience in life, the truth of the gospel is true every single day, and every single year – forever! And, he has given us a church in which to experience and extend that truth.

So yes, as it has always done, a star points us to a real Hope in our future.
 
Bring on 2017!
 

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