Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Renewed Hope for a New Year

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:19–25, NASB95)

There is something about the transition from an old year to a new, and the formation of this transition has a lot to do for many with how they view the past year and what they are looking forward to in the new one. If their past year was met with disappointment and loss, then they might look forward to the new year with anticipation of improvement and hope. If it was full of joy and positive outcomes then they might look forward with an anticipation of continuation. There are even some who are looking forward to the new year because of plans which they are expecting to see realized. Yet there are also some who dread what lies ahead because they have no real reason to hope that the new year might be any better than the last or maybe because they know there is something still lying ahead of them which is quite imposing and offering no real hope for improvement.

If people are going to make resolutions for change this is normally when they make them, and hopefully they might even see them through. It is quite natural for us to look at these significant calendar points and wonder. As we close out one year and move to another, maybe we also could stop and wonder about why our calendar is set the way it is. We use what is called the Gregorian Calendar which is considered a Christian calendar. It is a modification of the Julian (Roman) calendar put in place by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C., and was adjusted to better set the date of Easter. It is a lunar calendar which has periodic adjustments in order to keep it in alignment with the regular function of our solar/lunar system. It marks the incredible regularity of this universe in which we live.

As we think about our new year and our old year and the numbers that we use to distinguish them, we are faced with a counting system pointing back 2014 years, and we are left with the question as to what happened at that point in time that brought about this distinction. There is the non-faith based distinction CE that is being used by some which stands for Common Era and BCE or Before Common Era, and there are the long established (from 525 AD) distinctions of AD and BC. AD stands for “Anno Domini Nostri Iesu (Jesu) Christi ("In the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ"). This calendar era is based on the traditionally reckoned year of the conception or birth of Jesus of Nazareth, with AD counting years from the start of this epoch, and BC denoting years before the start of the era. There is no year zero in this scheme, so the year AD 1 immediately follows the year 1 BC” (Source: Wikipedia). Clearly our calendar marks the timing of a significant event, and every time we write down a date we are doing so in memorial of that event. Even if we use the common distinctives we are begging the question of what made the difference, what was this before and what makes it existent now? What happened that we went from counting down to now counting up?

Well, as Christians we know that it was the long awaited coming of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All of history is marked by His story and our dates commemorate that every day. Even if we were to take the AD away, we are still left with the fact that He came just as the Scriptures proclaimed. And with His coming He brought the realization of a long awaited hope which is the salvation of mankind and the giving of an eternal life of worship, service, and fellowship with our God. He came to give life to those who could not do it for themselves, which is all of mankind. But we also know that not all of mankind will accept that gift.

“for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11, NASB95)

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4–7, NASB95)

So, as we move forward in this new year it is my prayer that we would move forward with a renewed hope in the faithfulness of our God who promised that the work the He began in us He is faithful to complete, and that we would be ever mindful that the fullness of our hope will soon be realized when Jesus returns to unite those of us who are alive in Him with all of our loved ones who have gone before, and that as we talk with others we might ask them if they know what is so significant about this day.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NASB95)

“knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:14–18, NASB95)

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18, NASB95)

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, NASB95)

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