Looking back and looking forward: there is no way of escaping it. All media have overviews of what 2021 has brought us and forecasts of what we can expect in 2022. What will the new year bring us? It looks like in about a week Mark Rutte and a team of cabinet ministers will be standing on the steps of the royal palace in the Hague, accompanied by the King, and at long last we will have a real government after an interim of almost a year. Let us hope that this new government will energetically tackle the major problems of the Netherlands.
But elsewhere in the world there is very much more than in our country that causes great concern. The wars in Yemen and Syria, the tensions between Israel and Palestine, and the troubles with Iran, the crisis around Ukraine, the chaos in Afghanistan, the power plays of China–all these are unpredictable factors. Will peace prevail over war? Will reason prevail and curb emotions? Will 2022 be another year of unprecedented polarization in the United States and in other parts of the world, and must we fear outbreaks of left- and right-wing extremism?
We know that in 2022 the Corona pandemic remains a frightening reality. What will follow the Omikron variant? Will we face prolonged lockdowns in the new year? Should the world expect tens or even hundreds of millions of infections with various new variants? I am assuming that in the coming year I will have to get one or more booster shots (after the third shot that I recently got). The Dutch government has already ordered a huge reserve supply of vaccines for additional booster shots.
Yes, and of course there is the question of how the church will fare in the new year. By “the church” I mean the Church of the Seventh-day Adventists, which is still very close to my heart. In July, the World Congress, which has been delayed for two years, will take place in a slimmed-down format. What can we expect? Will there finally be significant personnel changes in the top leadership of the Adventist Church? Will this at last bring about a change of direction which so many have been longing for?
The Dutch Adventist Church will hold its (also postponed) quinquennial conference in October. Thinking about what this meeting might bring, I am not so much concerned about which people will be elected to which posts. The most important question for me is whether the delegates will finally have the courage to decide that female clergy may no longer be discriminated against. (On New Year’s morning, my wife and I were watching and listening to a television broadcast of a German Evangelische Gottesdienst. In addition to the male pastor, there was also a female pastor – side by side, without any distinction of status or rank. It felt absolutely normal. Why is this still not “normal” in the Dutch Adventist Church?)
And what will 2022 bring for me personally? I hope and pray that I will have a healthy, happy, creative and blessed year, together with those who are dear to me. Will we be able to travel again? Will we be able to soon see our grandchildren in Sweden? Will we be able to visit relatives in Canada and complete the trip to California that we had to break off two years ago due to family circumstances? And will we be able to make plans to visit friends in Australia again?
When I think of my activities in the new year, writing projects take centre stage. In 2021 these were mainly articles in Dutch church magazines, but also regular contributions in Adventist Today, Spectrum and Mountain View, as well as in the academic journal Spes Christiana, of which I am the editor. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find a publisher for a manuscript that has been on the shelf for more than a year: a book of daily devotional messages written in English, especially targeting people in a leadership role in the Church. It is a pity that it is as yet unpublished, but who knows whether a publisher will see light in it in 2022.
In the beginning of 2022, the Dutch version of He Comes: How, When and Why Jesus Will Return will be published. I am currently working on a Dutch translation (from the French) and adaptation of a book by Dr Jean-Claude Verrecchia about the way the Bible came into being. And inevitably, in the meantime, I am thinking about a new book that I may soon want to start.
Our vocabulary has in recent times been enriched by the word Zoom. It refers to the digital technology that enables us to have visual conversations via the internet and to hold virtual meetings and church services in this Corona age. In 2021, I did a series of presentations for special sabbath schools in the US. Recently, I completed a series on eight historical “dissenters” who have had great influence in their churches. Later this month I will do three presentations based on my recent book on the Second Coming.
I hope that also in the new year I will be able to do things that are meaningful to others. But, like most people around me, I long for a “normal” year, in which I can physically once again go to a church service, and can preach to an audience instead of via Zoom. Last week, a sermon was recorded in the church of Emmen. On 8 January it will be broadcast via YouTube. It is nice that, under the present circumstances, we have this kind of technology at our disposal, but without personal contact a lot is lost. And apart from not going to church, I miss going to museums, visiting friends, having a drink on a terrace or eating out.
But whatever 2022 may look like, if we enter the new year with faith and trust in God, we will be strong enough to handle disappointments and, despite Corona, we will be able to enjoy many good things.