Happy New Year
Happy New Year – from your God of second chances
Dr. RB McFee
“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth, shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43: 18 – 19
New Year’s Eve is fast approaching and with it comes the usual feelings of hopeful anticipation for happier times, new relationships, greater accomplishments, improved health, new goals to achieve, and other blessings. We can hear the song Auld lang syne with the powerful lyrics of Robert Burns. We long to celebrate with friends and family, and relish the happy memories of past revels. We look for more ways to serve our Lord and reflect the Love and Light of our Savior in a world desperately in need of both. And if you are like most people, your look forward to a prayed for better future is seasoned with just a pinch of regret – missed opportunities, unfulfilled goals, or residual sadness from the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune that sometimes befall all of us if we live long enough. It is sometimes easier to look at what didn’t happen than the inventory check list of blessings often taken for granted or overlooked.
As an aside, consider making a list of the good things that happened this year for you and your family. To be sure many among us have suffered great losses, and no amount of good things can counterbalance the pain. That said, most of us have had something good enter our lives even amidst the challenges; these are God’s reminders He still cares.
Nevertheless, these losses, and the lamentations can be all consuming. They can cloud our view of Christ in our lives, block out the voice of our Holy Spirit, and prevent us from seeing what God has given to, and is planning for us. While instructive, the past need not be a self fulfilling prophecy of the future, if we refocus on our spiritual present, and invite God to take a greater role in our journey. Too often we crowd our minds with the past, or the future, instead of experiencing the peaceful tutelage, and restoration in Christ that is promised when we are present with Him.
For people of faith, the New Year is much more than balloons flying, champagne corks popping, and the ball at Time Square falling. January 1st remains well within the Christmas Season, what we sometimes refer to as the twelve days of Christmas. It is a time of spiritual renewal, and a time to become reborn in the power of Christ.
Perhaps that is the great gift and challenge we all face as people of faith – remembering that God walks with us in the present, all the while He has seen our future; it is in that realization we need to trust. To recognize when we cry out “Jesus save me,” as Peter did, that in fact Jesus will.
So maybe part of our New Year’s practice might include time in the prayer room, recharging our trust connection with God and reminding ourselves that every new beginning is better with Him.
Maybe we just need to see the New Year as our time for a second chance, especially spiritually, from which all things flow, starting with our relationship with God.
Matthew 14 reminds us that Jesus is a God of second chances. Consider Peter was walking on water, when the storm got extra boisterous, and he lost focus. He started to fall. Crying out for help, Jesus, our just in time Savior rescued Peter, resetting him on the water. In a later verse both Jesus and Peter approached, and reentered the boat. Walking on water twice….now that’s a second chance!
But the Bible is full of examples where God and Jesus gave some of the luminaries in Scripture second, and third chances. Consider Samson – Initially serving the Lord, he allowed himself to be seduced by Delilah, and failed God. But God gave him a second chance. Or Jonah, who not only rejected a request by God, he tried to hide from the Creator of the Universe. We saw how well that worked for him. Getting puked up by a fish isn’t my idea of a great day, and it certainly was an unusual way to provide spiritual transformation.
And what about Peter and Paul, the two men Jesus relied on the most to spread the Good News? Speak about guys who needed a second chance (as do we all)….
Peter was a fisherman; not exactly a profession that immediately comes to mind when thinking about growing followers in a religious movement. Often impetuous, and well meaning, Peter started strong, but needed to learn how to finish stronger. Peter denied the Lord at His trial, and made mistakes (as all mere mortals do), yet Jesus mentored him until he became the future “rock” of the church.
Then there is Paul. He hunted Jesus’ followers, so they could be imprisoned and killed. Not exactly a skill set I would envision to build an enterprise designed to expand the Christ movement. And yet Paul became one of the most effective of the Apostles, teaching followers how to grow in love as a community of believers from Philippi to Corinth, to Rome.
These are the people who epitomize what it looks like when you worship the God of second chances. Between Peter and Paul, the life of Jesus spread through much of the known world.
How has God given you a second chance? My being reborn in God over ten years ago was clearly the gift of a second chance. We all need them, sometimes more than once! But we are so blessed to serve a God of second chances, and third chances, and….well you get the idea. Our Creator is a patient Savior.
Peter, Paul, the Disciples and other followers of Jesus also knew great disappointment. The promise of Good Friday, but darkness of night had not in earthly ways given them the fulfillment of what was expected in the Christ. That would take faith, and two days. The same is true in our lives – we are full of promise, but often wait for the fulfillment. It is truly easier to wait with God as our partner, and fellow believers as companions on the journey.
There’s a reason Jesus had all His Disciples on the boat during the storm when Peter walked with Him on the water. There’s a reason Paul often exhorted the benefits of community in the new believers. There’s a reason God made humans in need of and blessed by relationships, especially as pertains to faith.
We all have moments of success and failure – in our relationship with God, and others, in our work, and in our dreams. Which is why New Year’s Eve can be a bittersweet moment for many people. But as Christians we should consider the dawn of a new year as a time of great promise if we focus on what really matters – our relationship with God, using our gifts for His purposes, and trying to align our actions in 2021 with how the Holy Spirit guides us.
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”
Hebrews 10: 24-25
Thankfully none of us at CCUMC, or in the wider family of Christ needs to celebrate or face the New Year alone. One of the most powerful blessings God gives us is our house of worship. Being part of a faith family, a loving community of believers is a major gift, and comfort when starting a new year. We as members can support, and encourage, love, and console, instruct, and discern as an important resource throughout the year. Do we take full advantage of this amazing bounty in human-spiritual capital available to us?
“Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”
2 Corinthians 5:17
The New Year is a time of reflection, restoration, recommitment, and renewed relationships, especially with God. It is a time when we rededicate ourselves to a closer walk with our Savior. It is a time when we reexamine our gifts, and purpose, our blessings, and our challenges. Bringing all of these to the feet of our Lord, in appreciation, and anticipation, we can become reborn in Christ, in our New Year.
Praying that our God of second chances blesses you and your family with a healthy, meaningful, purposeful, and Happy New Year.