It is already the 13th of January. It is already the 13th day of 2018. Times flies and we do too! We have already greeted each other many times with the best wishes for the new year, and yet the new year is in front of us: new, fresh and open.
Christmas is over, new year has come and now we are taking the first steps of 2018. As Danes we can hardly imagine beginning a new year without singing Grundtvig’s beautiful old hymn to the new year: We welcome New Year. It is indeed one of the most beloved and beautiful Danish hymns and it fittingly embraced our wishes for the new year in 4 verses. Even if there are centuries between Grundtvig and us, we do have the same fundamental prayers:
We pray that God’s holy word will enlighten and strengthen us. We pray that God will bless us with sunshine, rain and harvest. We pray that God will grant us to live in peace. We pray that this new year will be both a benefit and a joy not just for me, but for all mankind. It was the same prayer that Grundtvig wrote back in 1849 when he made the beautiful poem for New year.
On a lovely melody from the 16th century that the son of Grundtvig, Svend Grundtvig, found in the royal Danish Library, when he was on Christmas leave from the war. Grundtvig begins with a prayer to God to continue to speak through his word to us, but even more that Gods love would shine through in the powers of nature. With the war as backdrop Grundtvig prays for peace and prosperity too. Even if it has been 170 years since Grundtvig wrote the hymn, it still reflects our fundamental prayers in 2019.
Yet another song keeps popping up every New year, and I do realize that I have quoted it before. John Lennon moving Christmas and New year anthem:
” ... and so, this was Christmas and what have you done. Another years over. A new one just begun
A merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.”
Christmas is over, the Christmas tree is out in the cold and all the decorations in the boxes again, the Christmas food is on our hips and the new year’s resolution on our lips. And so how did we begin the new year? With hope and joy. Og with fear and anxiety. With plans and projects. or with memories and status quo.
The Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard famously said: “Life is lived forwards, but only understood backwards.” We do live in constant movement, but all we live, all we experience, all of this is first truly understood when we look back over our shoulders. I thought about Kierkegaard at new year, as I listened to our wise Danish Queen and when I listened to a wise Danish man speaking. Svend Brinkman, a professor of Psychology at Aalborg University with a research focused on the philosophical, ethical and moral aspects, were giving his new year’s speech. He gave a good advice: let us walk backwards into the new year. We talk about that we have to head onwards and forwards into the future, but Svend Brinkman turned it around and urged us to do the opposite. The problem is that if we only walk forwards into the new year, we will only see the tip of our noses as time doesn’t exist yet. If we walk forwards into the new year, we might forget history, and all earned knowledge, that it took centuries to obtain and wars to agree upon. Peace, treaties, conventions and rights. If we only look forward, we would only follow the short path of disruption. – On the other hand, if we walk backwards into the future, we keep on knowing from where ewe came ad what we were. We can navigate after traditions, knowledge and values, that all have built our society’s and orders and we can adjust if needed. If we do not know, where we come from, how would we know where to go?
Have you ever tried to walk backwards? It is hard!
It takes courage. It takes courage to walk backwards. And courage is needed in our time and age, Svend Brinkman states. Again, we need to ask if we are carried by hope or by fear. Out of fear a lot of passive and negative feelings are born, - and our time is overflowing with these feelings and emotions. We can sit in our Livingroom, in front of the TV or computer, and get so angry, upset and violated. We can express our sense of being violated and offended or anxious. We can express these feeling totally free on Social media. That does not require a lot of courage, only a push on the bottom! But it sure creates a lot of negativity, fear, prejudice and enmity.
You probably heard about the stupid case about the beautiful song from the Danish Song Book: “The Danish song is like a young blond girl….” Suddenly that song was in the middle of a big debate about violation and discrimination. A not so blond, blue-eyed Danish girl felt violated and discriminated because of that song and thus the school banned it. Of course, a lot of Danes then god loud as they got offended and felt violated that somebody could feel violated by that beautiful song. It truly is a very stupid case. But it is yet far more sad and upsetting ,that we can feel violated and offended about these small issues and seem to forget all the big issues that sure are at hand and that should offend all of us: the ugly racism that still exist, the sexual exploitation of not only young boys in the Catholic Church but also of millions of young girl and women, who for generations have been molested and abused; all the attracts of the religious minorities of the world being Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Hindu; the inhumane treatment of refugee children at our borders, the disrespect of native people and finally the exploitation of all the resources of this wonderful creation.
There sure is plenty to be offended over and angry about. But not just an old Danish song.
Our time demands action and courage, Svend Brinkman urges us. To get up from the coach and put the phone and remote control down, get engaged, say out loud and oppose any discriminations, abuse og neglect and do something good for mankind.
We need courage to walk backwards into the future.
To remember the past, to admit failures and doubts and strengthen the good values and change the course if needed.
” Let us hope it’s a good one, without any fear.” John Lennon sang.
Look at the bulletin. A beautiful glasmosaic from a Canadian church. An image of today’s Gospel about the baptism of Jesus in Jordan. That was the beginning of his ministry in the world. That baptism and that ministry did form our history and our time with values, faith and hope. As Jesus got up from the baptismal waters and went into the world to preach and baptize, so the disciples went into the world and so do we. We are no the baptized that should go out into the world with our faith, our hopes and our love. AMEN.