Everyone’s gearing up for the new year. Today, every hour on the hour, groups will gather to countdown the last 60 seconds of 2015. Champagne will flow, confetti will fly, couples will kiss, and everyone will celebrate the coming of 2016. It’s a worldwide thing, and virtually everyone on the planet will be happy and celebrating tonight.
What is it that we’re celebrating? Why is the first minute of a new year so significant?
Newness. The new year brings new beginnings, new hope, a new start. Last year doesn’t matter anymore. Whatever happened in 2015 will soon be in the past, and we only look ahead to what may come in 2016. It’s a freeing feeling, is it not? We get to start tomorrow with no worries about things that have happened.
Newness is energizing.
The problem with New Year’s? The newness doesn’t last long.
Most of us are familiar with New Year’s resolutions. A habit we want to break, or a goal we want to achieve. How long do they last? If we’re lucky, most of us make it to February. We want to lose 20 pounds to get beach ready for the summer, so we make a resolution to lose weight and eat healthier. We do pretty good through January because it’s new and exciting and we make good progress through the month. Then comes Superbowl Sunday, and we go to a Superbowl party where everything is junk food and sugar. We reason that one splurge will be okay and we’ll resume our healthy eating on Monday. But then we taste the salty, spicy deliciousness of a basket of hot wings and remember what we’ve missing the last four weeks. Suddenly, we’re making those same excuses on a weekly and then daily basis, and we fall back into our old eating habits. Before long, those 5 pounds we lost are added back on with interest.
It’s hard to maintain New Year’s resolutions. And for some reason, when we realize in March that we’ve fallen back into old habits, it’s not as invigorating or exciting to make those resolutions again. So we resign ourselves that we’ll try again next year. And so the cycle continues.
The spiritual life can often be the same. In fact, the Jews lived in a similar fashion. The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement. On that one day each year, Jewish families would flock to Jerusalem where they would present their sacrifices to the priests. The high priest eventually goes into the Most Holy Place of the temple and offers one sacrifice in order to gain forgiveness for all of the sins they committed that year.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for the Jewish people to commit sins and need more forgiveness, much like those of us who fail at our resolutions. They would have to wait another year for Yom Kippur to come around once more to gain forgiveness.
Thankfully, we have a better way out now. In Revelation 21, God says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” All things new. The beauty of what Jesus has done for us is that we are constantly renewed. We don’t have to wait for one day a year to be forgiven of our sins. We can gain forgiveness any day. We are renewed every day.
As we go into the new year, celebrate, dream, pursue, but don’t give up. Just because you stumble along your path to a new and better life doesn’t mean you have to give up on it. The same is true in our spiritual lives. We’re not perfect, and we’re going to fall, but we can’t give up and wallow in self-pity. Get up, dust yourself off, ask for forgiveness, and pursue God with all your heart. And if you stumble again, just remember, that’s what Jesus came to this world to do. He is making all things new.