So much of the Bible is about new things. Isaiah uses the word “new” frequently. He talks about new moons, new songs, a new heaven and earth, new names. Jeremiah promises a new covenant (31:31). New is important. While we respect and honor old traditions, it is easy to become so stuck in the past that we cannot move on to accept anything new.
Many of us know people who can’t let go of the past, whether that past is good or bad. Some are so enthralled with past events, past achievements, past glories that they spend their time and energy reminiscing. Others suffered so much in the past from bad relationships, bad health, or bad choices that they work hard at maintaining that misery and spreading it like germs to everyone around them.
But that’s not what Isaiah wants us to hear. Through him God said, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” Don’t misunderstand. This was not some kind of spiritual amnesia, where God’s people would forget their past. What Isaiah was saying was that the new thing God was about to do would so eclipse what had gone before that people would willingly set the past aside for a far more glorious future. God says through Isaiah, “But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create.” Don’t bemoan the passing of the old. Set it aside because what is coming is so much better.
In his last years, when my father was more than ready to give up the body which so sorely tried him, and move on to the new one he believed with all his heart was waiting for him, he would say, “Those who have already passed to their heavenly reward are up there saying, ‘Those fools down there! Striving so hard to stay alive when what they have waiting up here is so much better!’ ”
Those of us who still enjoy good health, and feel we have a few years left to enjoy loved ones and loved experiences down here may not agree with him. But we know that, as good as life is right now, God has something even better in store for us—maybe right around the corner; maybe with the turning of the year. We don’t have to wait for heaven for God’s blessings. We can enjoy God’s gifts here and now.
In a few days we will ring out the old year and ring in the new, just as we do every December 31/January 1. It is appropriate that we should look back and see how far we’ve come. But let us not fail to look forward, lest we miss the blessings that God has in store for us. That is what January means. The month is named for the Roman god Janus, who had two faces so he could look forward and backward—backward to remember past glories, trials, accomplishments and failures; forward with a sense of vision at the possibilities offered by the future.
As we prepare for our own January experience, remember the words of Brian Wren.
This is a day of new beginnings, time to remember and move on,
Time to believe what love is bringing, laying to rest the pain that’s gone.
For by the life and death of Jesus, God’s mighty Spirit, now as then,
Can make for us a world of difference, as faith and hope are born again.
Then let us with the Spirit’s daring, step from the past and leave behind
Our disappointment, guilt and grieving, seeking new paths and sure to find.
Christ is alive, and goes before us to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings; our God is making all things new.
May you experience a happy and blessed New Year.