Discovering the ‘New’ in New Year
We all said it many times over the last few days. ‘Happy New Year’. It rolls off the tongue every December 31st, but perhaps this year it had more meaning than in times past. For some it might be a plea. ‘Please, please let 2021 be happier than 2020’. For some it might be said with a tone of skepticism and even sarcasm. With all of the unknown we face, can we describe the challenges and uncertainties ahead with even the potential for happiness? And perhaps for some of us it was simply a statement of faith. We believe that somehow God will be at work in 2021, and in that hope we pray we will find times of peace and, yes, even happiness.
Whether a desperate cry of hope, a sneer of cynicism or a statement of faith, there is one view of ‘Happy New Year’ I would like to encourage us to consider as we look to the year ahead.
Two weeks ago, Linda and I were decorating sugar cookies and we used the opportunity to watch two of our favorite Christmas movies. We started with the miraculous transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and ended with another miraculous transformation of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. Both movies depict men who were in desperate need of a changed heart. Scrooge had let life beat him down and his greed had shaped in him a twisted and angry spirit. George Bailey stood on a bridge ready to take his own life realizing that he was worth more dead than alive. In both stories these men are given a chance to see what life would have been like had they made different choices, or had they not been born at all.
We are moved by the image of Scrooge on Christmas morning, dancing down the stairs, greeting everyone with a ‘Merry Christmas’ and, as Dickens said, “he became as excellent a pal, as suitable a master, and as accurate a man as the good antique town knew.” We cheer the scene of George Bailey running down a snowy road and yelling out, ‘Merry Christmas Bedford Falls” arriving at his house knowing he was going to jail yet filled with joy just to be with his family knowing that his life had meaning and purpose. Both movies made me smile and cry. There is something about the transformation of the human spirit that touches all of us.
The themes of the two movies reminded me of the promise from Second Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”
Think about it, at Christmas we sang such powerful words like, “Joy to the world the Lord has come, let earth receive her King, let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing.” As we go into 2021, what part of our old life must we leave behind? What part of this newness must we embrace if we are to see heaven and nature singing, the new creation coming? As we go into 2021, how might we be transformed like Ebenezer Scrooge and George Bailey?
I believe as we look back at all we must leave behind, we must also look ahead to the ultimate hope to which we all journey. Listen to this description of your future and my future and let the words work transformation and speak to your spirit.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. ”He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Did you hear it? The one who is to come sits on the throne and proclaims that everything is being made new. Paul tells the church in Corinth that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. Let me put it another way, if we are in Christ, everything that could cause us to fear, dread or despair has been put behind us. Death itself lies in our rearview mirror. To be the new creation means to live the reality that all we have ahead of us is life. This was the theme of my third Advent blog and I want to raise it again here because it is, above all, a New Year’s revelation.
What would it mean for us to live this year as new creatures? Not because world events might get better. Not because a vaccine might come and might save us. Not because of changes in economics, technology, politics or even the church. No, living as new creations means we fully embrace in our spirit that, in Christ, everything that would steal from us the abundant life in Christ has been removed.
The question is, will we live into this? Will we experience life as the new creation? Will we embrace the promise, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”? (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Let me conclude with one more movie scene. In The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson sets up a powerful moment, for me the most important moment in the entire movie. As Jesus is on the Via Dolorosa on His way to Calvary, John and Mary work to get Jesus’ mother to where she can have one last moment with Him. They finally find their way through the crowds just as Jesus falls under the weight of the cross. Mary rushes to His side and kneels down beside Him. Jesus, bloodied and beaten, breathes deeply and looks into His mother’s eyes. He reaches out His bloody hand and places it on her cheek. He gasps for air and utters one short statement to her, “See Mother, I make all things new.”
What does it mean to you at this New Year that Jesus came to make all things new, including you? What will it require to set behind old things and embrace only life ahead? How will you steward this moment that your life in 2021 might bear witness to a transformed spirit, ready to dance with Scrooge, laugh with George Bailey, and live into the hope of the new heaven and new earth? May we all hear afresh the words of the one who sits on the throne. Today – yes even in this January 2021 – today He is making all things new. Including us. Including you.