A new year offers a fresh start, an opportunity for reflection and anticipation. Resolutions are made as to how things will be different this time through the calendric rotation, from January to December. Vices will be conquered and goals will be met in this new bundle of 365 days.
Familiar and Unfamiliar
A new year is unmistakably familiar. From the cooling of winter, to the blooming of spring, to the color of summer, to the bounty of fall, each season has its own recognizable character, a pattern that holds year after year. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays will crop up with expected regularity. Car inspections, health club memberships, and magazine subscriptions will all invite renewal. Even now, tax season is visible on the horizon, a hazy outline visible through the fog of holiday bills. The filing deadline will arrive with stubborn regularity in mid April. Winter, spring, summer, and fall each proceed in orderly fashion as a new year unfolds. We’ve been through this all before.
And yet, it is new – familiar, but not the same. This year will be different from last, as each year is. These 12 months will unfold a unique blend of opportunities and experiences never before encountered. February will predictably follow January, and splatter me with unpredictable variables. Like a coil, each year is another loop arcing around a familiar course at an unfamiliar level.
The Thread of Renewal
The thread of renewal has been knit into our experience of time, whether measured by the clock and its recurring seconds, minutes, and hours, or the calendar, with its recurring days, weeks, and months. This same thread reaches beyond this one swatch of time and is woven throughout the tapestry. We see the gleam of rebirth and regeneration in countless cycles – weather cycles, anatomical cycles, life cycles, agricultural cycles, astronomical cycles, migration cycles, tidal cycles, and on the list goes. This stitching is part of the distinctiveness of God’s quilted creation. In each case, it is this same balance of familiarity and novelty. It is a well-known pattern that unfolds with unexpected details.
A Reminder of Fallenness
These cycles remind us of fallenness. All is not right. The book of Hebrews makes the case that same sacrifices repeated year after year were a reflection of the inadequacy of those sacrifices to purify (Hebrews 10:1-4). They were a reminder of sin, a string around the finger recalling the brokenness of this world. They couldn’t fix the problem, but they could keep it in the Israelite’s field of vision.
Jesus sacrifice completed the cycle. “When this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:10, NIV). The cycle of sacrifices was complete. Even so, the fallenness is not fully resolved. “Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool” (Hebrews 10:13, NIV).
Sin has infiltrated more than just our hearts. It has infected our world. This is a creation groaning for redemption, heavy laden with the burden of corruption, held in bondage to decay (Romans 8:20-22). A new January is a reminder that the same fallenness that tarnished last January is still present. The world is still fallen. This new year will have it’s share of natural disasters and human corruption, as every year does. We ache for final resolution when a new age will entail more than just a new wall calendar.
An Opportunity for Advancement
But these cycles are an opportunity for advancement, a reminder that God does not lock us into our failures. Brokenness may infiltrate the cycle, but so does renewal. When Scripture speaks of newness, it is in settings of hope for transformation. We take off the corrupted old self and put on the new self with a renewed attitude (Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:9-10). Because of the resurrection, we may live a new life (Romans 6:4) for we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:18). We are not resigned to failure. We are encouraged that progress can be made. Each new year is an occasion to start again. And these opportunities are not stranded 365 days apart. Each new month, each new week, each new day, each new hour, each new moment is another opportunity for renewal. God invites us to begin again.This new year is an opportunity for renewal within brokenness. In Christ, the new creation begins on a micro level. He is changing the world by changing me. In this there is hope. Failure can be righted. Addictions can be overcome. Broken relationship can be mended. Growth can be nurtured. Healing can be administered. Sin can be forgiven. Emptiness can be filled. Silence can be broken. Fragility can be strengthened. Barrenness can be impregnated. Shallowness can be excavated. The God of renewal can be exalted anew as the calendar turns a new page.