…in with the new

Photo by Cameron Lee2013 is now history; 2014 has arrived.  How shall we approach the New Year?

The previous year had its share of challenges.  For myself, the fatigue associated with my viral condition seems to have worsened in recent months; I’m never without that  background feeling of jetlag.  It’s harder to stay focused and motivated, and I can’t help but wonder where all this is heading.  But thinking of family and friends, it’s easy to come up with a whole list of more serious trials and tribulations.

We might be more than ready to throw out the old year–good riddance!–and put our hope in the new, in a sense of fresh possibility.  Who knows?  Maybe 2014 will bring its own kind of magic.

As suggested in the previous post, though, this way of thinking has more to do with cultural celebrations of the shifting seasons than the story of Scripture.  As Christians, we are invited into a vast, sweeping narrative that reaches all the way back to creation, through the drama of sin and brokenness, and forward into the day when all will be set right, when God will make all things new once more.  Against a background of present suffering, Israel’s prophets pointed to God’s re-creation of a new heavens and a new earth (Isa 65:17), the fullness of which is still in our future, as described in John’s glorious vision (e.g., Rev 21:1-5).

But we also believe, with the apostle Paul, that through the cross and resurrection of Jesus, newness is already here.  “So then, if anyone is in Christ,” Paul says, knowing that communion with Christ in the Spirit should be the spiritual state of every Christian, “that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Cor 5:17, CEB).

When we share prayer requests, we often focus on the negative, the things we want God to change.  But what if instead of thinking about what went wrong in 2013, we meditated on what went right?  Where have we seen God’s Spirit moving in 2013?  For what glimmers of grace and personal evidence of new creation in Christ can we be grateful?

In the grand scheme of things, January 1st is just another day, and 2014 just another year, a new calendar on the wall.  It’s easy enough to identify what we’d like to see change.  But God is already in the business of newness, every day of every year.  Have we noticed it?  Do we beseech God to change things while missing the sometimes subtle ways in which his renewing grace is already present?

Let’s enter the new year attentive to the movement of that grace in our lives and relationships, open to learning how we might cooperate with what God is already doing to bring peace and wholeness to this broken world.

Have a happy–blessed!–new year.