“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever.” (Isaiah 40:7-8)
It is hard to summarise such a turbulent year as 2016, but the Sgt Pepper’s homage (above) has done this so well.
2016 will be remembered (by the west) for the loss of many treasured celebrities and the political shift from the mundane to the bipolar.
(For more on this read Dealing with Change – thoughts on BREXIT)
I have certainly mourned the heavy blows to our cultural heritage. As the Rev at Ringside, the loss of Muhammed Ali was upsetting (although expected). But out of all the celebrity deaths the most moving (for me) was David Bowie. To us it was a shock, but for him it was not a “sudden death”. The public-eye did not know of his battle with cancer and he orchestrated his departure (as much as possible) around his final album release. The lyrics revealed within gave voice to the dichotomy faced by all who are approaching death without the assurance of a loving saviour.
(For more on this read David Bowie “Look up here, I’m in heaven”).
There were many unsung heroes who also departed this year without any fanfare, such as Dr Donald Henderson who eradicated smallpox, a disease that killed 300 million people in the 20th century. We can also mourn the 1/88 refugees who were lost at sea whilst searching for a better life in Europe, as well as all those who have needlessly died in various world conflicts.
As each celebrity met our maker in the midst of political change and civil unrest, social media flooded with memes about the apocalypse, some suggesting that David Bowie had discovered a new dimension and was hand picking those he wanted to join him – it is quite a guest list!
The media paints a picture of a most terrible year, but when we put this into perspective with the events of 1916 where the battle of the Somme caused 60,000 British casualties in the first day alone (420,000 across the campaign), the inevitable (albeit tragic) loss of ageing icons pale in comparison.
So what can we learn from 2016?
Well the most obvious lesson is that people die, irrelevant of their wealth, record sales, sporting prowess or comedic genius. Their glory is like the flowers of the field.
2016 is the year that death has been brought back to the forefront of the popular psyche.
Our western culture has somewhat hidden death behind the fountain of youth (consumerism), limiting death to the poor, old and sick. But as we have seen through the falling of many icons this year, death is a reality that we all have to face at different times and in different circumstances (Romans 6:23).
The truth is, death is real and today could be your last!
Even the best times of life bring us all closer to death, there is no escape. The grass withers and the flowers fall.
Politically 2016 gave us more questions than answers, but as we all approach 2017, one step closer to our end, amidst the sad loss of so many much loved personalities, we are left with just one most important question – are you ready for death?
If (for whatever reason) you were taken tomorrow, do you know where you are going to?
Do you know peace with God through His Son Jesus Christ?
Because it is only in Him that you can be ready for death and thus be ready to embrace life at its fullest in 2017. (John 14:6).
I mourn with Jesus for those who have departed (John 11:35) and my prayers go out to all who have suffered loss and grief in 2016.
I pray that the new found realism of death in popular culture will bring people closer to the living God in 2017.
I pray that the void left by our cultures great flowers of the field will be replaced with a greater love for Jesus Christ “the word (who) stands for ever.”
May you all have a wonderful 2017.