The beginning is the most important part of the work.
There is, on New Year’s Day, not only the sense that a fresh beginning is taking place, but also the hope for a whole year of fresh beginnings. There is the romantic notion that because this is a new year, a time of fresh starts, a chance to reset and re-calibrate, that it will also be so in April, August, and October. I think there is a silent assumption that this “newness” will last indefinitely into the future despite the evidence of previous years stacked up by our memories of “auld lang syne” (days gone by) litigating against this mindset. And who hasn’t found themselves weary as the autumn grows cold, looking on the horizon for some kind of beacon or lighthouse on the horizon as a signalman offering a reference point in the middle of a long dark night. There is a weariness that years can tend to take on as they muddle through the last quarter of the year. We stack two busy holidays in the last two months of the year with the intention of bringing gladness, but in our consumer driven, appearance-keeping culture we have largely robbed the rest and replace it with exhaustion.
I have no problem fundamentally with looking at January 1 as a chance for a new beginning. I believe that we need tangible points in our life to force evaluation and imagination. There must be an intentional effort made to see the past and dream the future and New Year’s celebrations provide just such a time to do so. What I wonder, as I evaluate my own life this morning, is why there has to be such a strict view toward when we can engage new beginnings. Particularly for the Christian mindset and worldview, we believe that everyday is a new gift, that every bit of oxygen we pull into our lungs is evidence that the sovereign Creator has presented us with another moment of animation to think, run, scream, cry, love, kneel, or listen. It strikes me, as I think about it, that the same Christianity that has been known so pervasively for it’s tendencies to create and then get stuck in ruts of minutia and periphery is actually the one movement in the history of mankind that actually believes that from one moment to the next a person’s eternal destiny can be sealed for the good. We believe deeply in moments. We embrace fully the idea that within the human heart there is the potential to drive a flag or a signpost into the fabric of time, at any time, and embrace a new trajectory forever. We are the movement of new beginnings.
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
– Maria Robinson
I just wonder this morning if hoping for a year of “newness” isn’t a bit foolish. This vantage point was bolstered this morning as I read this in James’ epistle:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
So, at risk of being misunderstood as doomish and cynical, I wish you all a Happy New Day. I can think of nothing so hopeful, nothing so remarkably smile-inducing, and nothing quite as liberating as the notion that every single day can be seen with the fanfare and hoopla as New Year’s Day. Each morning we can “take a cup of kindness yet for days gone by”. This is the hope of Christ. Not a hope that we must wait on, not just a future hope that someday our Year will be made new, but the profound joy that each and every moment is pregnant with unshackled expectations and unsanctioned dreams. We, the people of the Cross, believe that every “next second” could be the instant that tombstones start rolling and foul-mouthed fishermen become globe-trotting prophets. It is a new year, but friends, it is also a new day, and when the new year has become wrinkled and musty we still believe that new days never grow old or stagnant or weary.
Today, I raise a glass with you. Godspeed my friends. May our paths cross often and our shoulders be well-shared. May our loves grow deeper and our hurts teach us quickly. May our lives be lived in such a way that they would be deemed worthy of the gift that they are.
We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves, otherwise we harden.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe