Today is the beginning of a new year. If I’m honest I’ve always experienced a bit of melancholy on the first day of the year. Maybe it’s the goodbye to the last year. Maybe it’s the reality of things left undone in the year, all the things I told myself I would do and intended to do but just didn’t get done. Something within us cries for just one more day or several more days. Maybe it’s the remembrance of the losses and disappointments of the year or the underlying sense that even with the excitement and hopes of a new year there is something within us that knows that still all is not quite right. People are suffering, those we love, those close and near, and those afar affected by cruel wars and inhumane realities.
Maybe it’s the apprehension of what the new year will bring. Soon after the angels heralded the birth of Christ, our Prince of Peace, the Hope of eternity, the Holy family had to escape Herod’s slaughter by fleeing to Egypt. And before that flight as Mary and Joseph take the baby to the temple, the holy man Simeon proclaims the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Israelites and ultimately to the world in the vulnerable baby AND that a sword will pierce his mother’s soul.
We live in this tension of the Kingdom of God here now but also in its ultimate fulfillment that is still yet to come, “the now but not yet." God has come to us in the vulnerability of a baby and has over thrown the powers of this world in his life and death and resurrection AND God will come again when “all things will be made new” (Rev. 21:5) The last book in the Bible tells us, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” (Rev 21)
This thought is especially comforting at the new year. Death and loss do not have the last word. Those disappointments of the last year do not have the last word. Our failures of the last year or of years long past do not have the last word. We are not the sum of our failures or of our unsung dreams. Our sorrows are not unseen by our God. Everything is redeemable. God will one day right everything in this world. As children of God “what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
As we say goodbye to the last year and hello to the new one, and as we wind down from the Christmas celebrations, we still have a few days left to focus on God’s coming to us as the traditional twelve days of Christmas lead us to the feast of Epiphany on January 6th. The history behind this day commemorates the revelation of God’s coming to earth in the form of an infant to the Gentile wise men. In other words the revelation of God’s love in the birth of Jesus, of God’s great desire to be with us, Immanuel- God With Us- extends to ALL the world, not just to the nation of Israel but to US…to you and to me.
So as I navigate the tension of the "now but not yet" what brings me comfort, what brings me hope, what brings me excitement about the year to come is that the Holy God of the universe has come and is coming all because of his tremendous love, all because of his tremendous desire to be “with us” to be with me. When I’m overcome by my past failures or am fearful of my future, I turn my mind to this thought. I find comfort and joy and rest in his presence, in his love. My response and prayer is to be present to him, to reciprocate his great love and share it with others.
Happy New Year everyone. God is with us! ...because he loves us!
May “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10)