So far, its seems 2016 has been the greatest disappointment since the Great Disappointment. While many greet the new year by remembering the previous one, it seems that the best thing about this year is the fact that it is ending soon. Despite the fact that the calendar system is just a construct and doesn’t really mark any cosmic “beginning” or “end” of anything, it’s hard to deny that a lot of calamitous stuff has happened since the earth last rotated around the sun.
So far this year has been punctuated by the deaths of David Bowie, Patty Duke, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman and Florence Henderson. Additionally, the Zika virus broke out, suicide attacks from Islamic extremist terrorist organizations have continued, and after a scathing political season, a candidate which members of both American mainstream political parties disagreed with was elected as the next president. Thus far, 2016 hasn’t been too high on popularity charts and doesn’t have many outstanding positive historical markers.
It may be tempting to say that this disdain is just a hyperbole. The grass might not have been greener in 2015, and after wearing a fresh pair of nostalgia goggles, 2016 might just dissolve into the multitude of events and trends known as the 2010s. Conversely, 2016 could be just as bad as any other year. In response to the rhetoric of the Trump campaign, some started asking “When was America ever great?” and looking upon any point in the history of America (or the history of the Earth for that matter) can always reveal dirt. 1969 might look like a good year in hindsight, since it featured the moon landing, the release of Abbey Road, and the invention of ARPANET—the technical precursor to the internet. However, it was happening during the Vietnam War.
Despite the lack of a true “Golden Era” it is possible to point to incidents in American history and say, “This helped make this year a good one.” 1920 had its positives and negatives, but adding the Nineteenth Amendment to the constitution helped make it a better one. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did the same. Even in the garbage fire formerly known as 2016, there are still some things to celebrate. On Nov. 2, thousands of Chicago Cubs fans celebrated the first World Series their team won since 1908. Ellen G. White was still alive then! The West African Ebola epidemic ended on March 29, 2016. Andrews University nominated a fantastic new president, Dr. Andrea Luxton. Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar! Though these things don’t demean the unfortunate things which have happened this year, they do reassure that 2016 wasn’t a chronological train wreck.
The question at hand is how 2017 can be better than its predecessor? As we finish this semester and welcome in a new year, in what way can we ensure that we as individuals are improving ourselves, the world around us and the year we live in? Surprisingly, a New Year’s message from Ellen G. White in the 1901 Signs of the Times provides a timeless response:
“The old year, with its burden of record, is fast passing away. The new year, with all its possibilities, will soon be ushered in. What advancement have we made in the knowledge of Christ during the past year?... At this time, when the nations of the world are wavering between infidelity and idolatry, are we prepared to stand as faithful ambassadors for Christ?”
The question is then answered: “Day by day we are to return to the Lord that which He has intrusted to us. And we are to ask Him, not only for temporal blessings, but for spiritual gifts. He who asks in faith, believing that God will fulfil His word, and who acts in accordance with His prayer, doing God’s will in all things, will receive rich blessings from on high. And as he receives, he is to impart to those who need help.”