Thursday, January 3, 2019

Old Story for a New Year


Happy New Year!


No doubt you've heard that greeting many times over the past few days. Perhaps you stayed up late on December 31 and greeted 2019 with kisses and toasts, or maybe you pulled the covers over your head and slept the old year away. Maybe you've made a list of resolutions for the this year, or perhaps you've chosen one word to guide you in the months to come. But one thing's pretty certain: you've been exposed to the word "new." A lot.


We love the promise of newness, don't we? A blank slate, a fresh start, a reboot—these ideas appeal to us like few others.

But as I contemplate the start of this new year, something has started to bug me.

As I think back on my Bible study and meditation for last month, everything pointed to the coming of Christ. The whole season of Advent was meaningful for me, as I reflected on the promise of Immanuel—God with us. I tried to put myself in the place of the ancient Israelites, watching and waiting for the Messiah. The old stories rang fresh in my mind, full of promise and hope.

And then on Christmas Eve, gathered with friends and family for a special service, I celebrated the coming of the Christ child into the world. "Joy to the world; the Lord is come!" we sang as we raised our lighted candles high into the air. Just like every year, we marveled how those little candles made the darkened sanctuary so full of light when they were all held aloft together. Indeed, the Lord had come; we could feel it.

But now, a couple of days into the new year, we're ready to put all the Christmas stuff behind us for another year. We take down the decorations. We throw out any leftover treats. We hang new calendars and get ready for the business of making ourselves new.

Up and at 'em! Make your goals! Get yourself organized! Make it happen! The message of Christmas may have been that the Lord had come, but the message of New Year's seems to be that it's all up to me.

Already, just a few days into the new year, I'm weary.

Over the centuries after the coming of Christ, church leaders developed traditions to keep people's thoughts fixed on Him. As I was growing up, I knew next to nothing about these traditions. Because they aren't mentioned in the Bible, our church didn't observe them. I had never heard of a "church calendar." The very idea would have seemed preposterous.

In the church calendar, the new year begins with Advent, the season of waiting for Christ. Then it moves into the season of Christmastide, which lasts all the way to January 6, a day for celebrating the visit of the wise men. "Epiphany" is the name for the celebration of that day, when the baby Jesus was first recognized by Gentiles as God incarnate. In the mid-19th century, William Dix wrote a special hymn for Epiphany:

As with gladness men of old
Did the guiding star behold,
As with joy they hailed its light,
Leading onward, beaming bright;
So, most gracious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.

Isn't that a wonderful prayer?

In these days of endless new-year-new-you messages, the idea of a church calendar doesn't seem preposterous at all. It seems like just what my soul needs.

Oh, I'll take my decorations down. I'll hang my new calendar up. But this year I'm choosing to remember that the celebration of Christmas is not just for December 25. We celebrate Christmas not just because Jesus was born, but because He lives and reigns. The promise of Immanuel was first for the people of Israel, then for the whole world. God himself is with us.

I don't have to make myself new this January. God himself is with me, and He is making me new. When I'm tempted to despair, I remember "though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (II Corinthians 4:16). The work of creating a new me this year is being done by the One with the strength and power to do it.

It's the old, old story, and it's what I need for the new year.

How about you?

18 comments:

  1. This is beautiful, Richella. I'm voting for a slow entry into the buzz of a new year. We need time to reflect on the glorious truth that God is with us even after the tinsel comes down.

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    1. Thank you so much, Michele! You're so very good at reflecting on glorious truths, so I really appreciate your encouragement!

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  2. Yours is a powerful and extremely well said message. It is as if you read my mind on how I feel about this new year. Thank you for such a gracious and moving post! I truly enjoyed reading your beautiful post!

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    1. Thank you, Karenann! I appreciate that so much. I so want to share the good news of the old story, both in what I say and in the way I live. Blessings to you!

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  3. Thanks Richella for a beautiful post. God is making me new is an awesome truth to start off a new year!
    Blessings,
    Pam

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    1. Thank you, Pam! I am so grateful that God is doing the work of making us new. Every blessing to you!

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  4. My new year has started off with warp speed and some major life changes, so this is a very beneficial post for me to read today. Thank you, Richella, and Happy New Year.

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    1. Rita, God bless you as you face these changes. May you be filled with the knowledge of God's presence with you and be encouraged that He never changes!

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  5. We are celebrating the 12th night, Epiphany, this Sunday. Sadly, its a tradition that has been lost in so many churches. I hope to do my best to follow Gods will for 2019. All the best to you this monumental year, Richella.

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    1. How wonderful for you, Kiki! I am glad that you are celebrating Epiphany. God bless you as you seek to follow His will this year and always!

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  6. Richella,
    Beautifully stated!
    I like to re~organize, re~access and rekindle in the New Year.
    May this be the happiest of New Year's to you!
    Pat

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    1. Thank you so much, Pat! I love that word you used--I think the idea of "re-kindling" is brilliant! God bless you in 2019 and always.

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  7. Happy New Year, Richella. I want to live in such a way that the old story never gets stale but instead feels new and fresh and hopeful. Always.
    Blessings to you!

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    1. YES, Marva! May we all be living testimonies to the old story that is ever new! Every blessing to you this new year.

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  8. Richella, such an inspiring and encouraging post for this new year! I linked over from "One Last Thing" but as I looked at your blog, I remember reading it when we both started blogging back in 2007. Life has changed so much for me since that time. But God is so good! The Greeks celebrate Epiphany. I've visited Tarpon Springs in FL and in early January, they hold a ceremony where the young boys jump into the Gulf of Mexico to retrieve a cross. Many people come to see this and celebrate. I will have to catch up on your blog but thank you for helping me start my new year off with something to ponder. Blessings to you, Debbie

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    1. Thank you so much, Debbie! So much has changed since 2007; isn't it wonderful to know that God hasn't changed? Good to re-connect with you. Every blessing to you this year!

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  9. Loved this. You articulated what I was craving. Maybe that's why I only bought a prayer journal for 2019 not a goal-oriented, "new me" one. It felt like I was giving up before I even started but maybe it's surrender? What a better way of phrasing it. Thank you for that! Happy New Year!

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    1. Karmen, I love that--to start the new year with a new prayer journal! Thank God for his love for us and his willingness to create us anew. Every blessing to you!

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