Our New Year's Eve celebration was fairly low key. We attended worship at 5:00 p.m. and then came home for a supper of broiled salmon, glazed carrots and salad, with apple-cranberry pie for dessert (yes, I know, we seem to be eating rather well these days . . . but hey, if you can't splurge at Christmastime, when can you?). Then we settled in for a fun family movie: Cats & Dogs. (This movie especially resonates with us as beagle owners since in it dogs are the "good guys" and the hero is a beagle.) After the movie the old folks (uh, that would be my husband and I) turned in, and the younger set stayed up a while longer, but I have it on good authority that only one member of the family actually stayed awake to welcome in the new year (and that was not so much by design as the result of her current writing project).
Attendance at worship was down somewhat from the last few years, perhaps due to the snowstorm that blew in during the day, but it is discouraging nonetheless that the majority of our congregation did not choose to "ring" in the new year with Word and Sacrament, especially since the service time is early enough to avoid conflicts with later social engagements. There was a time--certainly when I was younger--that I would have looked at worship on New Year's Eve as something "good" to do before moving on to the main event of the evening. But now it seems to me an utter "no-brainer" that the best place to be on New Year's Eve is in my Father's house, receiving the gifts that He so freely and graciously gives to His own. What better way to mark the end of one year and the beginning of the next than to fix my eyes upon the One who is both the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the author and perfector of my very life and faith?
Speaking of beginnings and endings. one of the things that particularly struck me about my pastor's New Year's Eve sermon concerned the common view of time. As products of Western culture, we tend to see it linearly, in terms of past, present and future, and we also imagine it as something that is constantly, inexorably moving ahead. Thus, at this time of year we like to spend time looking both backward (as in all those end-of-year retrospectives) and forward (plans and task lists and New Year's resolutions). And that is all fine. But as Pastor pointed out, Christians also realize that God's time is not linear, but spiral in nature, as everything both past and future points to the one event that forever and irrevocably changed the course of human history: the incarnation, life and death of Jesus Christ. Whereas the created world certainly had a beginning and will someday have its end, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is eternal as His Father is eternal, and as we rest in Him there is ultimately neither past nor future because we His children are a part of His eternal plan.
The epistle reading for New Year's Eve is one of my absolute favorites, on my short list of passages for which I can actually cite chapter and verse, and one of those that takes my breath away with its pure Gospel message (the emphasis is mine):
"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:31ff)
Happy New Year.