Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Years

Ringing In

The Seasons of our Lives

Ecclesiastes 3:1–1

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.


Ali and I did an interesting exercise the other day - getting Facebook to compile the words we used the most throughout 2016. Luckily, they were all positive, hopeful words... with a few travel locales thrown in.

During the year, for the most part, we have tried to be positive and it seems we have succeeded, at least in social media.

But really, in more than that, we have worked hard to learn, to grow to start new jobs, to help our kids with their growing up, we even got married....

Of course, a lot of bad things happened as well. There were fights, there were cooking disasters, bad decisions, and a lot of stress.

Does that mean that the year was a right off?

I have seen so many people say that 2016 was a terrible year. So many beloved celebrities and musicians died. Some people were upset that Bob Dylan won the Nobel prize. More people were upset with the election of Trump south of the border.

But is it the worst year? Is it even close? No... it is just a year.

The deeper message in Ecclesiastes is not that good and bad things happen, it is that good and bad things ALWAYS happen. That is not exceptional, that is life. Nothing is black and white. You cannot have good without bad, pleasure without pain, sunrise without sunset.

Not only that, but each thing happens in its own time. In its own way. With its own season. To try and deny that it is happening, to try and force only happiness, to try and focus only on pain. This denies the reality, complexity and beauty of life.

This is a lesson I constantly need to remind myself of, a way of thinking that I find hard to do. That it is ok if things go wrong, it is ok if things go right. And both will happen.

All Things New

Revelation 21:1–6a

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

A New Thing...

That is the promise of this passage. That is the hope Revelations promises. God will do a new thing.

We are used to hearing this passage at funerals - but really, the guy who wrote it had never even been to one of our funerals. He was a political prisoner. Rome seemed to be winning. The Christian Faith was in real danger of being wiped out. Jesus idealism was giving away to pessimism .... and so he wrote saying not everything was as it seems. That God really was here. That things really could change. That tomorrow would make all things new.

Now, this passage was not meant to superimpose Ecclesiastes. The author knew his scripture, he knew there was a season for everything. The problem, in his opinion, was that too many people, were forgetting the good things. Too many people were focused on the bad.

If I had a nickel for every time someone has said they will be glad 2016 is over... well, I am sure you have heard it too... and I am pretty sure you probably heard someone say it about 2015... 2014... 2013...

And each time, those people are looking backwards negatively, they are focusing on the death and destruction, and thinking that life would be better without it.

But again, to go back to wisdom that is only four thousand years old.... life would not be life unless it was full. Unless life included the good and bad and the seasons which bring richness and depth to our existence.

So I take these two passages as speaking about the same thing, both of them are about life and the way it is meant to be lived. Both of them speak of the negatives we encounter and say that they are a part of what is meant to be. And both of them suggest that we accept the way things are without falling prey to the negativity that would mean we have lost hope.

Life is meant to be lived, and we are meant to find God in each and every thing that happens, in each and every person we encounter.


"For Auld Lang Syne" means "for the sake of old times"

That's a rough translation. More literally, Auld Lang Syne means "old long since" or "long long time".

It is a song that is meant to evoke the sense that we should be looking back on old friends, on old times, fondly and allowing those memories, as bittersweet as they may be, to be present in our hearts as the year changes from one to the next.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint stowp!

And surely I'll be mine!

And we'll tak a cup o'kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou'd the gowans fine;

But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,

Sin' auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar'd

Sin' auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fere!

And gie's a hand o' thine!

And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.

So, for everything there is a season. We once played in the fields and paddled in the river. But now we have loved and lost and still, it is ok, the days of old help us appreciate the new things that God is doing. This is what we celebrate today.

So this is my hope, that when 2017 comes to a close we will look back at all the good and bad that happens next year and not wish it away so easily, but realize that it is part of the bittersweet beauty of the life we live.