By Chris McRae, BCI Discipleship Team Leader
A New Year! What’s that all about? It’s kind of arbitrary when you think about it, isn’t it? Someone, someplace, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away decided that the lunar cycles and the solar cycle ought to line up. They noticed that there were approximately twelve of the former for every one of the latter. The long one they called a year and the short one became the month. There was a bit of a problem with extra days and such but it all got worked out to the mutual agreement, if not satisfaction, of the Bright Guys doing the figuring.
New, as an adjective, immediately brings to mind its corollary opposite of old. In our culture, as I suspect in most societies, throughout most of history, new is preferred to old. New is fresh, exciting, fraught with optimistic potential. Old is haggard, worn out, worn off and worn down. Old is wrinkly. I guess that’s where the image of Father Time comes from. New is baby smooth. There are some of us old codgers who have a natural disdain for newfangled ideas and such. Just between you and me, that’s because the innovative ideas we championed in our idealized youth are now out of date and are being replaced with reactionary novelties from these inexperienced whippersnappers who lack maturity, insight and wisdom that only comes from battles engaged, terrain hard-fought over, and enemies vanquished.
Anyway, A New Year. A new beginning. A time to start fresh. A second (third, or thirtieth) chance to get it right. In the realm of things spiritual we understand the New Birth…a second chance at life. We didn’t need to come out of our mom’s tummy again. We were though, as it were, born again from heaven, children of the Father of Light. We just celebrated the arrival of the Light of the World in this sin darkened world. And so, at the end of one cycle, we see the start of something fresh.
Let’s be honest. None of us lived last year as well as we’d wished. We could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been kinder, gentler, more loving. There are regrets about the way we lived, the words we spoke, the attitudes we harbored. Some of those remain hidden in the secret places of our hearts. Some are evident in the wounds inflicted on loved ones and strangers alike.
A New Year. A time for resolutions. Not for me. I’ve got nothing against planning on being a better person, it’s just that the whole “setting of goals” thing becomes a set-up for failure for me. I have enough of that without planning for it. We know the aphorism that “failing to plan is planning to fail.” I get that. For some it works – for others, not so much. I’m one of the “not so much” guys. That doesn’t mean that I should just float through life. I truly want this year to be different (in a good way) than last year. I want to know God more, be more entranced by his holiness, be more awed by his splendor, be more enraptured by his beauty, be more stilled by his majesty, be more aroused by his passion, and be more like he is and like he wants me to be.
Without getting too preachy, the only real way to become like Christ is to get to know him and the primary way we get to know him is through the great Revealing. You don’t get goodness by juxtaposition but by renovation. The Written Word unveils the Living Word. And so, I have to read my Bible. We start out most years with a New Year’s Resolution to read through the Bible this year. Many have made that a lifelong habit. Good for you! Some are like “Read? Like a Book? Isn’t there a Reader’s Digest…Audio Version that I can listen to…on fast forward…while I’m doing something else?”
There are all kinds of reading plans out there but I get confused by their complexity. For some of them you have to be a math wizard to figure out. It’s January 8th so I’m supposed to read the eighth chapter of the eighth book of eight different sections. Psalm 8, 38, 68, etc. That works fine until I get to about day 15 and I can’t do the math anymore. The twelve tables were too much for me in second grade. Then there’s the plan where I read a little out of the OT and a little out of the NT and little from someplace else. I need sticky notes all over my bible and nothing seems connected to anything else. Help!
I’m simplistic. Pick it up and read it. Start at “In the beginning” and read. Get to a stopping point. Put a book mark there to hold your place. Then, later, pick it up and read it some more. Keep reading until you get to “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” It doesn’t matter if you miss a day or a week. Pick it up and read it from where you left off. For some it might mean you’ll take two years, some will do it in one, some of you might knock it out in six months.
These Ancient Words are ever new, changing me and changing you. May you have an ever new you in this New Year!