In Theory: Hopes abound for the New Year

Turning on the radio this morning I was listening to a sweet-sounding string ensemble play a selection of Christmas music. The group's virtuosity was quite amazing. Without changing any energy and verve they moved effortlessly between sacred carols, Handel's Messiah, and seasonal sentimental songs while always returning to “Jingle Bells!” It was called something like “Christmas Cornucopia.” It was pleasant enough to hear, but it seemed to place all Christmas music in the same category. It caused me to reflect on the situation of media-driven news.

As we move into 2014, it is increasingly important that all of the news that we hear not be relegated to the same level of significance. The opinions of TV families who hunt game birds certainly have their place, however there are issues going on in the world that are more serious and more important. For instance, I hope that the diplomatic work between the president and Iran precludes the need for new sanctions against that country, and that some measure of trust can be engendered between our two countries.

I hope that the economy in the United States and around the world continues to recover, that people find work, decent housing, and healthy food. I pray that more and more states understand that all couples deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and that couples not continue to be relegated to second-class status because of their sexual orientation.

I hope and pray that public and private schools find more effective ways to teach and keep safe the increasingly diverse array of children who seek education. And I hope that houses of worship increasingly open their doors and their theologies to all kinds of people. Blessed, happy and informed New Year!

The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel


There are two kinds of hopes. The first is our usual sense of wishing for something that might or might not happen. The second is the way the Bible uses the word, in the sense of confident expectation of something that will definitely happen. My hopes in the first sense are pretty simple and personal. I hope for a greater experience of Jesus' life and presence in my church. I hope more people in Burbank come to know Christ through our ministry. I hope for success in my wife's, daughter's and son's varied pursuits. I hope for success and fruitfulness when I work in my office and when I work in my garage on various projects.

My hopes in the second sense of confident expectation are simply what Jesus has promised. My sins and shortcomings will be forgiven because I trust in his blood shed for me on the cross. My family and my church will have all of our needs provided. God's word, the Bible, will give us wisdom every time we need it. And we will all be one year closer to our greatest joy and expectation — the return of our Lord and savior. That will be the happiest new year of all!

Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church


My hope for 2014 and indeed for every year is summed up in the words of Christ when he taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Unfortunately, I do not think that the Church (Christian believers worldwide) has ever fully grasped what Christ is saying here.

He is teaching us to pray for a profound reformation in society worldwide. This reformation is to reestablish God's justice and loving kindness upon the earth by fully implementing God's will, plan and purpose for the human race. This reformation can only occur as human beings are restored to their rightful place of dominion. But restoration only happens as people are revived by being spiritually born again.

Jesus commanded his followers to go to all the world and preach the gospel (good news of God's kingdom) to every one. He promised that signs and wonders would follow the preaching by those who believe him. We are told that his disciples went out and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with and confirmed their message by accompanying signs and wonders. (Mark 16:17–20)

All too often today, the gospel has been reduced to religious philosophy and “spiritual platitudes” that contain no life-transforming power. The apostle Paul made it clear in I Corinthians 2:4-5 that the gospel can not be contained in plausible words of human wisdom, but only by demonstrating God's spirit and power. Our faith is to rest in God's power, not our human reasoning.

My hope is that Christians everywhere will understand they have the life-transforming power of God's Holy Spirit residing within them and demonstrate that power to a world desperately in need of God's confirming signs and wonders.

Pastor Ché Ahn
HRock Church


As 2014 begins there are hopes in different facets of life each of us have — personal hopes, family hopes, career hopes, national hopes, religious hopes, and so on.

Hopes are not the same as an unattainable fantasy. Hope implies the idea of progress or change can become real.

From an Islamic perspective, one context the Koran speaks about hope is in meeting God on the day of judgment: “Whoever looks forward [with hope and awe] to meeting God [on Resurrection Day, let him be ready for it]…”(29:5)

As 2014 begins, let us continue our preparations to “be ready for it,” to meet the Almighty, and let us have high hopes in those preparations.

O God, we hope you move our families, our communities, our nation, and our world toward a loving, wise, and compassionate disposition, and away from an angry or conflicting disposition; O God, we hope you strengthen and build our families and ties of kinship among friends and community. For those undergoing trials in their lives, we hope you bring them relief.

O God, for those who are struggling financially, we hope you help them overcome their financial burdens and ease their stress. And for those who you have blessed abundantly, we hope you inspire them to use their wealth wisely and in your way.

O God, we hope you guide our various levels of government, guiding them to serve and regulate society wisely, all the while not adding any undue regulation or taxes (even getting rid of a few as you see fit).

O God, we hope you heal Kobe Bryant and lead the Lakers to another championship. And O God, please bring a winning NFL team back to L.A. I'm just hoping…

Omar S. Ricci


This past year has been very challenging, to say the least. So as 2013 comes to an end, I fervently hope that 2014 will be very different.

Our economy sputtered and seemed to come to life so many times during the past 12 months only to falter and stall yet again. I truly hope that this coming year will see the long-delayed economic upswing we have all been waiting for, producing real jobs for the population and a final end to the Great Recession.

Healthcare, a central part of all our lives, is in the midst of a major upheaval. The much-heralded Affordable Care Act started off as a big mess, as confusion and technical glitches meant that it initially failed to help many of those whom it was intended to assist. Numerous uninsured people remained without coverage, and a large portion of those who had coverage through the individual marketplace received cancellation notices and offers for new, costlier plans. I truly hope that this year will see the citizens of this nation gain viable, reliable healthcare coverage from coast to coast so that everyone can go to sleep at night knowing that their medical needs will be properly addressed.

Finally, this past year has seen a world fraught with strife, bloodshed, bigotry, and mistrust. The world today is a more dangerous place than it was on Jan. 1, 2013. It is truly frightening when a harsh, dangerous country like Iran can get official sanction from the world's civilized nations to produce any amount of enriched uranium, let alone enough to create a nuclear bomb in a matter of weeks. It is heartbreaking to see a murderous dictator like Bashar al-Assad of Syria get political immunity after murdering hundreds of thousands of his own people and gassing children to death in their own cribs. Has history taught us nothing?

I pray that 2014 will be a year when wisdom will guide the leaders of the world and enable them to find the means necessary to ensure that we can all live in security without fear for our children and loved ones.

I regret sounding so morose, but I truly believe that the key to fulfillment and happiness in the coming year depends upon our recognizing what is wrong and vowing to correct it. The opportunity for peace and prosperity is certainly within our grasp, if we only have the clear vision and determination to pursue it.

Happy New Year!

Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center


I really have the same wish for every new year. And that is: Peace and Blessings for all.

To me that means everyone will have a living wage and a safe home in which to live. It means that safe drinking water will be available for all and that women, rather than politicians, will have control over their reproductive services and decisions. And it means that all people, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identification, will have equality and the right to love and marry the persons whom they love. I also hope that those who have immigrated to our country, whatever their documentation status, will be able to experience safe and secure lives in our country.

I know that is a lot to ask for in one year, but I am an optimist. I believe that where people of faith and goodwill show compassion and commitment, anything is possible. So my wish in 2014 is that we will have increased dialogue and cooperation among those who truly want to bring about a truly Beloved Kingdom on Earth and that, regardless of our particular religious traditions, we will work together to bring that possibility about for all. 

The Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills
La Crescenta

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