When I was a teenager, it began to dawn on me how incredibly stupid New Year’s Eve celebrations are when they’re celebrated in their normal way, with lots of drinking. Growing up less than an hour from New York City, as far as I could tell, New Year’s Eve was just a seemingly good reason to head to Time’s Square, get wasted and watch some glowing ball drop at midnight. All this while people acted crazy and the police were out in force to protect the drunken revelers from those prone to violence, from petty thieves and from pickpockets. Even before God saved me, it all looked so stupid and futile. And much of it was.
Going into 2017, we have new opportunities. 2016 has been a year of some good things to be celebrated and some other things we wish never happened. There were personal victories and defeats for most of us. There were losses and there were gains. As we reflect back on 2016, we can move forward in a couple of different ways.
First of all, we can dwell on the past and get stuck in our failures. We can look at the mistakes we made or the losses we incurred. We can focus on the missed relationships we could’ve had or could’ve improved, missed income opportunities, and missed time spent with God etc…. All of that will create a cycle of defeat and despair.
The second way we can move forward is to reflect on the last year with gratefulness for all that God did, with yes, some regret, but not shaming ourselves for opportunities missed or sins committed. We can reflect on the last year with hope and prayer that in 2017, God will help us to build on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve learned, sometimes in the school of hard knocks. God invites us to move past our failures. In fact, we don’t need to live in our mistakes and sins or to dwell on the past. God’s word teaches us to,
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Is. 43:18-19)
What is striking is that these verses were originally written to Israel in the middle of her rebellion and unfaithfulness to God. In other words, even under the Old Covenant of law, God was still loving and kind, faithful and merciful to His people for their mistakes and sins. Even under the Old Covenant of works, God still yearned to bless His people for their own good and for His glory. He was doing a new thing. He was about to make streams in the wasteland flow, a picture of the spiritual blessing, life and joy He was about to bring! He was about to bless their mess, not because of their godliness, but out of His great grace! How much more under the New Covenant of grace, will God bless us for our good and for His glory if we ask Him to in 2017. The new year doesn’t have to be meaningless and stupid. It can be a year of renewed purpose, renewed commitments, renewed relationships, renewed opportunities and renewed joy in Christ.
May God grant you a blessed New Year!! Pastor Dave