Happy New Year – but what actually changes?

It’s here. 2014. Another New Year. Word is that today will be the warmest day of the year so far (and the coldest).

It’s funny. Everyone wishes everyone a happy new year, people revel, a small fortune gets spent on fireworks (how many NHS hip operations might last night’s London extravaganza have paid for?!), there are smiles everywhere and a great sense of excitement and optimism.

You know – that ‘the new year is a book with 365 blank pages: what are you going to write’ kind of excitement and optimism.

But what actually changes? Anything?

Once the party mood has worn off and it turns out that the severe weather warnings and the flood warnings are still in place, that no one has announced a cure for dementia, that Syrian refugees are still refugees, that your irritability or your critical spirit or your tendency to worry more than you should has not gone away, what then? And, honestly, why should we think that January 2 will be radically different from December 30? Does changing the numbers on the calendar actually change anything else?

In case you are wondering. I am not one of those people who is tucked up in bed with my Ovaltine by 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. I sit up past midnight (!); I watched the amazing London fireworks.

But I do have a sceptical side to me. That makes me raise those things I did two paragraphs ago.

However, I’d hate to miss the opportunity of a new year or, worse still, rob you of your opportunity to step out with vision and passion. So bear with me while I think a bit more.

The fact is that God has designed our lives and our world with a sense of rhythm. Day and night. Sleep and wakefulness. The seven day cycle of the week: a new ‘first day’ is never far away. The months. The seasons (the darkness of winter eventually gives way to spring – as my wife reminds me). And the years.

In biblical times, the people of God had their years punctuated by various special days. Not least among them was Passover.

This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.

On the tenth day of that month, a meal commemorated what was a nation-defining event. Every year, at the same time, they had the opportunity to look back and recall that event which was really a beginning of beginnings.

Interesting then that it was at Passover time that Jesus was betrayed, and that he became what the New Testament describes as ‘our Passover lamb’. For it is in him that we find the beginning of beginnings.

As Paul Tripp posted on Facebook this morning:

Your hope is not in the fresh start of a new year, but in the fresh starts and new beginnings purchased on the cross.

So what about the new year? Is it just a question of changing the numbers?

Perhaps. That’s the way it often seems to be.

But it can be more. I think we can take it – like the other rhythms of life – as a graciously given opportunity to look back at where we have been, how God has been faithful, and look ahead. We cannot see the end of the road – really only a step at a time. But we can – and should – be intentional about how we will travel.

So go ahead. Set some goals. Make some determinations by the grace of God. With God’s help, resolve.

And remember this:

If anyone is in Christ – new creation.

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