If there ever was a year I was glad to see kicked to the curb, 2016 was it.

I think of it as the year of cancer. It was, largely, a lost year. Thanks to the drugs and the tune-out thing of sickness, I don’t even remember big parts of it.

I remarked to a lifelong friend that my precious granddaughter was born in 2016, and one of my sons got married, giving us a wonderful new daughter. She answered that I really would have had a good year, if it hadn’t been for the cancer.

That’s a little bit like saying that if it hadn’t been for the iceberg, the Titanic would have had a great crossing. Nope. So far as I’m concerned, 2016 was the year of cancer and an execrable presidential election in which, no matter who won, We the People lost.

New Year’s Eve felt like relief to me.

Life goes on, one day falling unnoticed into the next without remark or notice. We grow up, grow old and move toward death in a seamless glide that makes the changes seem inconsequential. For our sanity, we must find ways to draw lines, to mark spots on our long passage through the years where we pause, take notice of what’s happening, and begin again.

New Years’ Day is one such place. The old year passing and the new year beginning are in reality just theoretical constructs we humans have given ourselves to aid our understanding of what our lives are about. We need places to begin again. We need second chances, new beginnings and the hope of fresh starts.

I felt relief when 2016 slid into history. It was like a load lifted. It signaled the end of the year of cancer and the beginning of a hopeful new epoch in which I can get stronger and move into whatever is left of my life without the baggage of the time just past.

It meant something to me, and it gave something to me. It gave me the promise of a new beginning, a page turned, a painful passage done and done.

That is the magic of second chances. It is the power of hopeful beginnings.

It is exactly what every Christian possesses each day they live and on into eternity. T. S. Elliot wrote that being a Christian means that we never have to say goodbye, not even when someone dies. That is true. As King David said of his dead son, “I will go to him.”

All Christians know this hope, this power of eternal life that lifts us out of the mire of our finiteness. But we sometimes lose sight of the fact that this transcendence is ours now, as we plod through our days in this world.

Christianity is the message of limitless new beginnings, of second chances for the asking. It is the hope — the Hope — of never having to say “there is nothing I can do.”

For Christians, there is no fate in which things are “written” before they’ve happened. There is no karma that comes back and bites us from our past. There are actions and consequences, and there is forgiveness and second chances. Christians never have to wallow in the ugly, sin-spotted misery of their failures from the past. They can — always — begin again in Christ.

The condemned prisoner on death row, and the cancer patient at the end, both have this marvelous opportunity to begin again. Because death is not annihilation. Your body just stops and you step out of it, and if you are in the state of grace, you step into the arms of Jesus to await the resurrection — life everlasting, life unending, life without misery or pain or shame or regret or remorse. You become what you have always been: a child, a little child, of God.

Second chances are what hope is made of. Second chances are creativity, writ large. They are the antidote to despair, the hope that keeps the wheels turning and the joy rising.

There is one catch to this. It’s a small one, but it is absolute. You cannot reach out and take the abundant life of joy and love that is life in Christ into yourself if you fail to follow Him. The secret to abundant life is giving yourself away to the One Who made you in first place.

This means that you must follow and trust Him, and Him only. And that means that you must give up the little g gods of this world. We live in a time when the gods are changing. We live in a post-Christian America in which the little-g gods reign supreme in our politics, our schools, our entertainment, and, sad to say, most of our churches.

Religious leaders have abandoned Christ and Him crucified to preach a political gospel that is based mostly on trimming the real Gospel down to fit inside the narrow, ugly and hate-filled invective of current political discourse.

Political leaders have come to exemplify these new little g gods in their amoral lives and actions. Our educational and entertainment institutions bombard us constantly with anti-God, anti-Christ propaganda that preaches and teaches the morality of no morality, the acceptance of lying, cheating, hurting, and destroying for one’s own pleasure and gain.

That is not Christ. None of it — including the messages coming from the pulpits which are held by fallen men who have drunk the world’s Kool-Aid — is of Christ. These are the little-g gods they are giving us. And little-g gods are not gods at all. They are just us, channeling the darkness and calling it good.

The gods are changing. But God, the real God, is unchanged. The message of the cross is the same as it was when Jesus’ blood ran, fresh and hot, down the side of it. It is the same as when He told the good thief, Today, you will be with me in paradise.

It is the message of endless second chances, of new beginnings, of forgiveness, love, mercy and eternal life.

Jesus Christ is life. He is the Lord of all Life. He is Himself the life-giver. There is no other.

Let me repeat that: There is no other.

There is no other Way that leads to eternal life.

There is no other Truth.

There is no other Life.

All these things so many people are exchanging for the real God are death in disguise. People are throwing away life with both hands and reaching out to grasp death. They are tossing away the only Hope there is, and latching onto the latest manifestation of the apple, which always, always, always begins with a lie.

The lie in this case is that the Gospels are ours to re-write to suit our politics. That lying doesn’t matter. That adultery doesn’t matter. That pornography doesn’t matter. That incest doesn’t matter. That abortion doesn’t matter. That euthanasia doesn’t matter. That stealing doesn’t matter. That cheating doesn’t matter. That betrayal and treason don’t matter.

That nothing matters so long as it’s done by “our” side in the political wars. We have made gods of our politics, and we have created an ever-widening morality-free zone. It began by setting entertainment aside and making it into a morality free zone. Then, it moved to commerce, and suddenly anything that was done to make money, anything at all, was outside moral considerations. Now, we have made our politics into a morality free zone, and by doing that, we have stuffed this entire democracy down the rabbit hole of nothing matters.

This is not of Christ. It is the logical consequence of political heresy. It is the inevitable outcome of failed religious leaders who preach and teach a political gospel in lieu of the real Gospel.

Make no mistake about it. There are pew-sitting, Amen-shouting, regular churchgoers who are lost and going to hell because they have traded Jesus for this political gospel, because they are following the little-g gods of this world instead of the real god; all while they aggressively shove their “faith” in other people’s faces. There are clergy who are on a slide down to the infernal regions for preaching and teaching followership of the little-g gods of this world instead of leading their flocks in the Way.

This is an obvious and plain thing to see, if you just have the eyes to see it. It is sharp as shattered glass, and it is real.

But there is no reason to despair. Christians live in the world of begin again. We can convert and turn back to Christ. We can repent and save ourselves.

I was glad to kick 2016 to the curb. I needed a new beginning after the year of cancer. That passage gave me a different perspective on a few things. I know that I am not going to live for decades to come. I have a “return to sender” label on me.

That gives me a certain freedom. I want to use that freedom well. There is nothing better that I can do in this dawn of the new year than call everyone who reads this to compare their lives to the life of Christ, and then repent. Look at Jesus, then look at yourself, and know that your righteousness is filthy rags compared to His.

Go to the cross and give yourself to Him utterly and completely. Stop trying to do things your way, and stop following the little-g gods of this world. Follow the real God. Follow Christ and Him crucified. Give yourself to His mother to use you as best benefits His purposes.

Love Jesus. Love Him with your whole heart.

And reach out and accept the free gift of abundant and eternal life.