Time keeps passing.
Moving into a new year can bring renewed optimism and a sense of new beginnings. People with this outlook see opportunities and a chance to start again. Or it might bring a certain heaviness. Another year is ended, so much still hasn’t been done, and our window of opportunity is smaller than it was.
The Bible embraces both of those perspectives. In the Old Testament, the Passover festival commemorating Israel’s deliverance from Egypt started a new way of counting years (Exodus 12:2). Each new year brought a reminder of a whole new life God had given. That was certainly cause for celebration!
There’s also Psalm 102:24–27. In that passage the afflicted sufferer laments that his days have been shortened and sees in the passage of time an indication that heaven and earth will themselves come to an end.
If you’ve ever used a sand glass to keep track of time in a game or for cooking, you know the feeling of those grains of sand diminishing and disappearing, until only a few grains are left, and then time is over. Opportunity has ended.
Both the optimistic and the pessimistic attitudes towards a new year contain an element of truth. It is good to move forward, to tackle new things, to have a fresh start in our lives. It is also necessary to let the past go, to acknowledge lost opportunities, to adjust expectations to hard truth. Neither by itself is enough.
But you can’t just add a little realism to your cheerful feelings or balance your sadness with a New Year’s Resolution. Something more is needed.
From the way a shortened life and fleeting time bring sadness, the author of Psalm 102 rises to something greater. Although heaven and earth will pass, yet God will endure: “You are the same, and Your years will have no end.”
The unchanging faithfulness of God gives us a reason to hope in 2023. If we’re sad, it gives us a reason to cheerfully persevere. If we’re feeling hopeful, it grounds that feeling in something too solid to be taken away by the setbacks that are bound to come.
Time keeps passing. But God is still the same.
Rev. Ruben Zartman has been the pastor at Ebenezer Reformed Church in Shafter since 2017.
Rev. Ruben Zartman
Ebenezer Reformed Church
Pastor’s Corner – Shafter Press