We are just weeks into 2021, and it appears the unique challenges of 2020 will be with us for quite a bit longer. So, what will be required is more discipline, self-control, and a significant amount of patience.

And it will take intentional effort not to let hope dissipate, not to give in to the despair that can result when the opportunities and potential of a new beginning seem to be fading. It won’t be easy.

Already many of the good intentions and New Year’s resolutions pledged to just a few weeks ago have been abandoned. The impact of the pandemic and continued social and political unrest only increases the sense of darkness.

This additional stress leads to the assumption that the entire year ahead will not, cannot be, anything better.

But dwelling on the darkness makes it easy to miss that the darkness of each day is slowly releasing its grip to the increasing share of light that is making its way to us.

What one sees depends on where one is looking.

So in the early days of this journey through 2021, we have a choice to make. We can focus on the things that are wrong, the dreams that did not make it this far, and the stings and sores of living in the real world. Or we can focus on what is still possible, on surprises and joys that await our discovery.

For those who choose to see all of life through the lens of faith, our focus is drawn to a light that has come into the world. We know this light as Jesus the Christ, a light that no darkness can overcome.

We are so very aware that we would not know real hope without this light. We could not appreciate peace. We would have no source of true joy. And without this light, love would be a stranger to us.

We trust that Christ, the light of the world, goes with us through all of life and beyond. Rather than succumb to the general malaise around us, we commit ourselves to be reflectors of this light, pushing back the darkness near us and around us. The future might be unknown, but the God of the future is known and knows us.

So with more joy than sadness, more courage than fear, and more hope than despair, we genuinely look ahead with excitement to 2021!

Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.