Hope for the New Year
Happy New Year! Phew.
Where did this last year go?
What are your feelings this morning as a whole new year stretches ahead of us? The last couple years have been... um. well, weird.
I was listening to the radio, and the announcers had this little blurb on the new year coming up, and it went something like this:
A1: Well, 2021 is already coming to a close and what a crazy year it has been!
A2: I know, right? I mean, who could have thought it would get nuttier than 2020? Hello, 2021!! (Insert laughter)
And, I laughed, but at the same time, I was thinking, "Wow. These last two years have been... "nutty", weird, like-who-could-have-thought-that-would-happen."
And, not just on a large, world-wide scale like what we have seen with the Covid pandemic, and not just on the scale as involves the things we have seen going on in our country and our government and in the mindsets, experiences, and stories which have "graced" (not sure this is the right word here...) our news and media outlets.
How have these last two years affected your family?
How have they affected you?
Have you felt "fine"?
I've been "fine".
How often do you say that little word?
Everything is "fine".
But, really it's not.
Because really it's been hard. It's been confusing. It's been frustrating and scary and annoying and things have made me angry. It's been ups and downs and tears and laughter. It's been adjusting and re-adjusting and a never-ending cycle of craziness.
Am I the only one?
So, as we face a new year is there anything I can be sure about? Anything I can cling to as I face another year that might be even "nuttier" than the last two years?
And, not to sound cliché, but I have faith.
Not just an obscure faith, but a faith grounded in truth.
And that truth doesn't just leave me feeling overwhelmed, but it gives me hope.
And that hope is not just "I-hope-this-will-happen", but hope that anchors my soul.
In the book of Hebrews, the author is giving us reasons to trust God's promises.
He gives the example of God's promise to Abraham that he would make of Abraham a great nation and that through Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The author writes that "by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie", this promise was given. And, this promise was not only given, but also fulfilled in Jesus. The passage continues like this: "we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us." (Hebrews 6:18)
What, exactly, is that hope? And, how can I trust in this during whatever the new year brings?
The author of Hebrews finishes the thought this way: "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf..." (Hebrews 6:19-20).
The whole book of Hebrews focuses on how Jesus fulfills these promises and is a better High Priest, a better advocate, a better sacrifice, a better Savior.
Sometimes I forget.
I forget what Jesus endured to bring me life. Look at this verse from Hebrews 12: "Looking to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners (me!) such hostility against himself so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."
Our faith is grounded in what Jesus did. He is the author and the perfecter of our faith. Faith in what?
Faith in God's promises.
Faith in God's character.
Faith in God's word.
Jesus fulfilled God's promises.
Remember the previous verse about how it is impossible for God to lie? To prove that, he pledged an oath to himself. When people make an oath, they swear by something greater that themselves: "I swear to God"; or perhaps they try to confirm their validity as a good human by swearing on "their honor".
But, when God made a promise, he confirmed that promise by swearing it upon himself. There was no greater thing by which he could confirm these promises. And, so Jesus, being God incarnate, was the best one to confirm these promises in their entirety.
Jesus coming confirmed God's character.
Jesus lived perfectly.
Jesus lived with compassion.
Jesus showed mercy.
Jesus showed the greatest love possible.
And, in his life, death, and resurrection, he proved God's word to be trustworthy.
"Therefore... since we have confidence to enter the the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way he has opened up for us... let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean [by the blood of Jesus]... Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."
What is our hope?
What is the grounding work of our faith?
What is the reason for living with confidence?
What is the purpose for living even when we can't understand what is going on?
Because he endured it all for us.
It is amazing that the one who understands our pain best, the one who shares our sorrows best, the one who endured loss best was the one who never sinned.
This is how we can hope in him.
He did "life" here perfectly.
And, he did it so we could have hope in the future he promises us.
"Therefore let us be grateful for having received a kingdom that cannot be shaken..."
Whatever "nutty", crazy, hard, difficult unknowns and fears and trials and even joys you will have in the coming year, remember we have hope.
We have Jesus.
And, he is the same.
Every. single. day.
Come to him in faith.
Cling to him in hope.
"For he is faithful who promised." Even in 2022.
"Christ our glory, Christ our hope!"