Updated: Jan 2
A New Year
It's become a noun, an adjective, a meme.
I can't think of a time since I was born that the world collectively defined a whole year. Usually it's days that define us - like September 11th. Or moments - like when someone is born or someone dies. Rarely does a whole year stand out.
In a matter of hours, it will be 2021, and I can't help but wonder if people will still be tempted to use "2020" as an adjective (and if the memes will continue) because 2020 does not merely refer to a mark in time.
It connotes frustration that the world and our lives have not gone according to our plans - that as tightly as we hold onto control, we have none. It connotes hopelessness at the ongoing cycle of brokenness in our world. It connotes sadness at the depravity of our world that was highlighted and brought to the surface - not new, but now impossible to ignore.
And it's prompted a longing in our hearts for hope. Hope that can either call us to cling to and worship the comfort of normalcy; or, to examine our hearts and realize that what we are truly longing for is rest in the Savior we were made to worship but have replaced with so many other things.
2020 has indeed been a year ravaged by disease, racial tensions, political division, hunger , humanitarian crises, and by death. For many of us, other years have personally held greater loss or change than 2020. But, collectively, the world has experienced the fullness of this world's brevity and brokenness. We've experienced how one's world and the world can completely change in an instant.
Unemployment sky-rocketed. People lost their homes and went without food and other basic needs. Children were caught in unfortunate home situations with no escape into the world of school. Foster care and adoption processes that give kids homes and families stalled. Weddings were celebrated quietly or postponed. Mothers gave birth with no one by their sides. Nurses and doctors sacrificed precious time with their families. Human trafficking increased. Families broke apart. Loved ones were lost and mourned in isolation.
On this particular New Year's Eve, more than ever, it feels like the world is sharply inhaling, preparing to exhale, to breathe a sigh of relief, as if our very lives depend on it.
I think that's why so many of us are excited for 2021. We're associating it with hope that comes from the passage of time, or the swiping of a page on Google calendar. And, I think for that same reason, others of us are holding our breath, almost afraid to exhale, because we fear that hope will be disappointed.
As people, we often look ahead to seasons of change for hope. We believe that with time, hope will come. Change will come. Better days will come.
But here's the thing: that only happened once. In the life of Jesus.
When at just the right time, while we were still sinners, God sent Jesus to save us. The world received living hope. God with us.
And since then, our hope has been set, an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6.19). It comes from the same thing no matter what day, or month, or year it is. It comes from a Savior who saves us not from death and disease and pain, but from our sins so that one day we will be with him for eternity where there is no more death and disease and pain. He truly has set eternity in the hearts of man (Ecclesiastes 3.11)..
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that we shouldn't embrace new beginnings - marks in time that encourage us to number our days, to re-commit, to embrace hope. I just want to make sure our hope is in the right thing.
When I look at the Bible, in seasons of change, of utter uncertainty, of great trial and exile, the resounding call is to remember God. To remember who God is - his faithfulness, his steadfastness. To not hope because time continues but because he makes everything beautiful in its time. To hope because while time doesn't have the power to change us or our world, he does. The power to redeem and transform hearts with the blood of Jesus.
So, before the clock strikes midnight and this year goes down in history, let's take time to remember who God has been this year, who he has always been, and who he will always be.
He is the one thing that has not changed in a year of immense change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13.8). He has seen past generations through death, and disease, and division. He mourns with us. He stands with us in the fire. He brings beauty from ashes. And all throughout history he has continued to do his work of redemption.
Most of all, he continues to see the depths of our wandering, doubting hearts and loves us still.
The other call we see in those moments in the Bible is to examine our hearts and return to God as we remember who he is.
We are deeply aware of things when they are in front of us every day.
Every day of 2020, we've been faced with the numbers of those who died from Covid-19. Each of those numbers is a person, made by God in his image. It's been impossible to forget or not let that change us as it confronts us every day.
Other numbers are not in front of us every day, but remain true all the same. Three million children died of hunger in 2019. While that number was not reported on the nightly news, it is true. And it's a great tragedy if we don't live like it's true and allow that number to change us.
If you follow Jesus, not only are you called to keep who God is in front of you every day; you're called to remember that people live and die every day without knowing the life-changing news of Jesus. To live like that's true and allow it to change how you live.
I wonder if this New Year, our challenge could be this - to remember who God is everyday. To remember what he's done. And to remember that he's given us this mission - to share the good news that Jesus died to save us from our sins.
In the course of one year, we've seen people's lives change, given to the cause of saving the world from Covid. (Especially to our doctors, nurses, medical workers and first responders - you've given your lives to this cause - and none of us could ever repay you for the sacrifice of time and how you've given of yourselves).
Seeing the ability of people to do that - to turn their lives around for a cause - it's made me wonder: If people rallied around the cause of Christ and it changed our lives like Covid has, would we be closer to our mission as followers of Jesus? What does it say about followers of Jesus if Covid has changed our lives more than Christ? Do we really believe the gospel or just know it?
My prayer this year is that we would allow our lives to be truly transformed by Christ. That we would tear down our idols - whatever we put our hope in, our time in, or search for our peace in, other than God. That we would remember who God is. That our hope would be in him, and that we would share that hope with others.
Before the ball drops, let's cling to one thing - the God who saw us through it all. Whose mercies are new every morning. The God who makes everything beautiful in his time, for his glory and for our ultimate good. Who calls us into his saving grace and gives us a new beginning in Jesus, making us whole and alive in him. Who has set eternity in our hearts.
...And so we pray, restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me (Psalm 51.12).
Be truly glad family - there is great joy here in life in Jesus, but there is even greater joy ahead.