Each year, dictionaries announce the “Word of the Year”.
The word is chosen by compiling thousands of data sets to determine what phrases, words, or definitions were searched most frequently. Unsurprisingly, the word for 2016 was paranoid.
"Cambridge Dictionary researchers examined data from hundreds of millions of online searches to see which words sparked the most interest in 2016, finding that “‘paranoid‘ stood out as the clear front-runner.” The data showed a fourfold increase in searches for the word 'paranoid' from all over the world, suggesting that people everywhere are feeling warier than ever before."
Sadly, the word fits.
We saw corruption and deceit.
We saw man's hunger for power and the means used to obtain it.
What we saw, was something like King Herod.
Somewhere between 6 and 4 BC Jesus of Nazareth was born. Under the guise of worshiping the Christ, King Herod sought the newborn saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:8)
And yet the Magi were warned of Herod's true motives and did not report Jesus' location to the King. Furious, Herod turned to mass murder.
"When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi." (Matthew 2:16)
Herod wanted the threat to his throne killed. He wanted to maintain his power. And by all accounts it looked dim for the Christ. Mothers wept and fathers burned with anger. Older sisters lost their brothers and uncles lost their nephews.
Surely, Herod would have his way. Surely, the boy would die.
Surely, salvation would be thwarted.
This is the beginning of the Gospel. Light entered the world and darkness was upon it. Evil sought to suffocate the healing, and warmth, and redemption the newborn carried.
And there was tragedy when Christ was born. But the story moved. The Christ moved. The narrative continued. Joseph and Mary escaped and so did the world's hope of a healer.
As we begin 2017, we must remember that the story is moving. The Christian narrative is one of pain but of purpose. It is not a straight line but a wandering road where we must seek His "rod and staff".
The new year is upon us and paranoid is the chorus of many.
The darkness seems too strong for the people of Flint and the people of Syria. It seems a bit too dark for people seeking justice in the black community. The light seems snuffed out for many single mothers and jobless fathers. And even for the privileged and well-off, the political climate threatens upheaval.
And yet, this is the beginning of Jesus' birth: darkness came but did not win.
Darkness does not mean we are abandoned.
Pain does mean we are orphans.
And tragedy does not mean our Father does not see, hear, or care.
Christians, how we walk in 2017 tells the world what we believe in darkness.
Do we believe that this is the end? Do we believe the story is over? Do we believe the narrative ends in pain? Or do you and I, sons and daughters of the King, believe this road ends in resurrection? Do we believe Jesus finished the work? Do we believe redemption cannot be thwarted? Do we believe He is still working?
Do we believe in the Gospel?
-David Hamilton is a writer, and content marketing director living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When he's not hurrying to meet a deadline, he's trying to teach his two year old Bernese mountain dog, Moose, that sticks aren't food.