This year for Christmas, my wife asked for a new saucepan; after all, when your old non-stick pot loses the “non,” it’s time for a new one.
In the store, I received a frightening re-education in the cost of a well-appointed kitchen. At one point, looking at the prices of open-stock cookware, I exclaimed out loud, to no one in particular, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Fortunately, I found a perfectly good and less expensive alternative. But eventually, of course, that pot will wear out too, and it will be time for another replacement.
Out with the old, in with the new. We live in a culture of disposable goods and the mentality that goes with it. An auto dealership in our neighborhood once flashed a sign that read, “Nothing ages your old car like some else’s new one.” Think how many things we could substitute for “car”–like any item of personal tech (iPhones and their ilk), where the constant pull is to move on to the next new thing, and the next, and the next.
Are the years like that too?
Thomas Cahill once argued that ancient cultures tended toward cyclical worldviews: the endless, circular procession of the seasons, birth and death, day and night. One might think, for example, of the meaninglessness repetition lamented in Ecclesiastes, where life is likened to chasing after the wind, which itself blows in aimless circles (Eccl 1:1-15).
But, Cahill says, everything changes with the story of Abraham. A personal God interrupts the endless circle and calls an individual to embark upon a journey. Repetitious cycles are flattened into a meandering line with an implied endpoint and a destination, the story of life becomes a travelogue, and the reader is invited to join the adventure.
To me, there’s something about our New Year celebrations that feels like the old cyclical worldview. Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with repetition and routine. Many of us, however, know the sense of meaningless and futility that often comes from investing hope in a mere change of calendar. New Year’s resolutions are made in earnest: this year will be different; this year I’ll really do thus and so. But what makes this year different? Not much, we eventually discover to our dismay, perhaps as early as February.
Newness is a biblical theme, but it is neither the “newness” of another turn of the wheel nor another flip of the calendar. It is the rather the freshness of life and hope that comes with the continual and creative unfolding of the promises of a covenant God. More on that in tomorrow’s New Year’s Day post.