For the most part the world doesn’t notice. That includes millions of Christians.
We will be among those who watch the ball drop in Times Square, grab a kiss at midnight, or watch fireworks light up the night sky. Okay, so I’ll probably be asleep, but I’m with you in spirit.
There’s nothing at all wrong with ringing in the New Year with laughter and good cheer. The passing of the old year and the emergence of the new reminds us of a deep truth. God weaves hope into the very fabric of the universe.
|Childe Hassam’s “A New Year’s Nocturne, New York”|
No matter how tumultuous, heartrending, or mind-numbing our lives have been for a season, God has something new for us around the bend.
In our dark moments, we fear that a bleak and painful past determines the future for us or for someone we hold dear.
The New Year reminds us that God is about new beginnings. God promises reconciliation and restoration, redemption and healing.
In God’s hands, the future can rewrite the past, just as the empty tomb transforms the meaning of the cross from shame to glory.
Our Christmastide worship enables us to see the deep textures of hope in the creation.
On Christmas Day and again on the First Sunday of the Christmas season, many of us will have heard the opening verses of St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1)
We will miss the power of those six words if we think of “beginning” as the first moment in time, like the start of a race or a kickoff or an opening pitch. Thinking of “beginning” in this way could mislead us into thinking that God gets the ball rolling and then sits back to watch what will come of it.
Deists think of God in these terms.
God, they say, sets things in motion and then observes the choices we make and the way that events converge. From a Deist’s point of view, God might step in to judge how we did at the end, but God stays above the fray of the universe.
|Paul Gauguin’s “Whispered Words”|
By contrast, St. John uses the Greek words “en arché” to express God’s ongoing relationship with all of creation. We render it as “in the beginning.”
Like even the best translation, “beginning” is at once accurate and misleading. The Greek word bears meanings that our English equivalent lacks.
“En arché” means at the root of things. Whatever is, whatever occurs, draws upon and depends upon something deeper. Something most fundamental. The Word is at the root of all things at every instant.
Each day, each moment is pregnant with a new beginning in God.
Christ is at the heart of what may seem like the most godforsaken moment. That is why we can always hope. God is always at work making whole what is broken, mending what seems beyond repair, healing what we thought was terminal.
Many of us will enter the New Year with resolutions to lose weight, to exercise regularly, to watch TV less, and to read books that have long been on our list. In other words, we resolve to make more of the time we’ve been given. To begin again.
That’s fine. But the Christian story is our defining story. And that story urges us in a different direction. Look with hope and expectation at what God is making of your life. God is always in the beginning.