In the end is our beginning

Published December 22, 2022

By Tom Campbell

I’ve been attending too many funerals of friends lately, perhaps a further sign of my advancing age. They are especially sad during holidays, but in one recent memorial service the congregation sang a hymn that has been nagging at me ever since.
It’s a recent addition to our hymnbooks by modern standards, written in 1986. The title is “Hymn of Promise” and it has a beautiful melody, but also words of hope for us. The opening sentence of the last verse is what has repeatedly had me singing since the funeral.
“In the end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”
The song’s lyrics are filled with juxtapositions, and if you take time to reflect on them you realize there are so many things in this life we know and many that are unknowable. The line that kept coming to my mind since that funeral was the one promising that in the “end is our beginning.” This is the foundation stone for the Christian faith, the hope, belief and promise that when we die, we will be resurrected to an eternal life. But I believe those words also apply to current issues.
Naturally, at years end we understand that a new year follows the old, and we are always hopeful it will be better than the one just expired. We routinely express those hopes in New Year’s Resolutions. I remember the end of last year, when we were hopeful that the pandemic that had gripped our world would end so we could return to more normal life. While our life has resumed in large measure, we still are not free from COVID and now must worry that RSV and flu are spreading. These viruses will be a part of our lives for some time.
I would never consider myself as good a wordsmith as Natalie Sleeth, the hymnist for this wonderful anthem, but let me suggest we could unite in hoping that the war in Ukraine would end in the most favorable way for that nation….and soon. Who wouldn’t want to hope that our climate concerns would abate so we could anticipate more centuries of life on this planet? And can we all hope the coming year would curtail inflation and forestall a possible recession? High on that list should also be the hope that we could eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of violence, especially gun violence so prevalent in our state and nation.
As one who writes and speaks about public policy issues, my great hope is that we can reverse the threatening trend of nasty, ugly, divisive politics. I don’t think I’m alone in worrying that we are reaching a point of no return in our partisan schisms; divisions that threaten violence and civil conflicts.
Other concerns are heightened in our state. The North Carolina General Assembly will gather in January for what is termed the “long session,” and there are many potentially divisive and contentious issues on the docket. We are promised yet another round of redistricting and we can only hope our lawmakers will not heavily gerrymander new district lines. Abortion laws, healthcare policies, education doctrines and tax reductions are potential topics - matters that even in the most congenial of times could create serious differences of opinion.
Is it too much to offer a hope that our lawmakers would become more than partisans, that they would consider the hopes and concerns of the majority instead of just those from their own class, party or caucus? And that they would work to unite us on a path for future progress?
Again, the words from this wonderful “Hymn of Promise” speak to us. “There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.” As we begin 2023, let us hope for that dawn, for new beginnings, for healing hearts, for peace among us, and for renewed faith in our nation, our state and especially in each other. Those would be wonderful New Years resolves.