My experiences, and surely yours as well, have been broad. But, have you ever stopped and asked why we celebrate the coming of a new year? Is it really that big of a deal that it is truly a global event?
It’s six pm, December thirty-first, two thousand something and you’re standing in front of the mirror rushing to get ready. There seems to be an excitement in the air. Your special someone walks in asking how they look and reminding you that the time to leave was five minutes ago. You get to your destination and friends and family are pulling at either side; their faces are absolutely electric. Before long you’ve made twelve laps around the room and it’s only eight thirty pm. Ugh, still three and a half hours left to go…
Sure, you might say that it’s just a part of our culture. But New Year’s parties will be going on all over the world in places that have very different cultures than ours here in America. It’s true that people have been celebrating New Years for a millennia, but what is it about the new year that offers something to celebrate? To accurately answer the question one need only look at how people prepare. At least here in America, many make New Year's Resolutions, there are countless good luck wishes made, and families even map out their new year by creating action plans. An accurate summation might be to say that the New Year offers many the hope of a new and better life in the upcoming year as contrasted, of course, by the last one.
Talk about timing. Literally just as I finished the last paragraph the doorbell rang. Our neighbor’s son was frantically piecing words together, trying his best, while deeply frightened, to get help for his mom. She was doubled over writhing in excruciating pain and desperately needing a ride to the ER. My heart broke for her and as I tended her two little boys after my wife left to take her to the hospital and remembered the few things I knew regarding the kind of year she has had: numerous break-ins that seemed to unfairly target her home, a current boyfriend who has beaten her up once or twice, and her trying in the best way she knows how to make ends meet while navigating life as a single mom. I am sure this past year has left her undoubtedly longing that the upcoming year will offer the hope of a new and better life. While extreme, my neighbor gives a perspective that we all have memories from the past year that cause us to anticipate new opportunities and better experiences in the year that is coming.
It is a simple tick of a clock that marks a new second of a new minute of a new hour of a new morning of a new day of a new year.
That’s all it is! Yet, billions of dollars are spent on these global celebrations as we unite to inaugurate the New Year and all that it has to offer. I stagger at the thought of the power, excitement, and anticipation that hope brings. Hope moves men and women to look forward, hopeful of what may come, and empowers to look beyond the most desperate situations. Hope encourages us even when evidence that the future might be better is bleak. Hope strengthens people to hold on just a little longer when they might have given up had they not possessed any hope at all.
Unfortunately, for those that barely go an hour before getting into an accident on the way home from the New Year’s party or in the early days have their hopes dashed by broken relationships or lost jobs, the shining new year that was a beacon of hope and light in the darkness has faded and already failed us. Why? Our hope was misplaced. Our hope was in the temporary, finite, and material. Our hope was in experiences, people, and ideas. In a sense, as it is ineffectual, it is a dead hope. What about hope that lasts? What about hope that weathers the storm? What about hope that is present in the tears and pain? To juxtapose this dead hope, can we consider a living hope?
Peter, in his first letter, addresses the churches in Asia knowing the coming suffering they may endure for what they believe, and aims to equip them for this suffering. He understood the importance of holding on to real and lasting hope in Jesus when he reminded them of all that Our Precious Savior has accomplished in His death and resurrection (1Peter 1:3-5). To be born again, have an inheritance awaiting us, and to be guarded in our faith by God’s power brings hope that is real. It is hope that is ongoing and strengthening. Jesus is our living hope as we face a year that is uncertain.
Why is this so important? Unfortunately, if we are honest 2017 will hold much of the same pain, tears, anguish and turmoil that 2016 brought. So Peter’s letter is applicable in your life and mine in understanding where to place our hope during the inevitable challenges. Ligonier Ministries states, “The fact that Jesus was raised to life two thousand years ago gives us an unshakable conviction that our hope is not in vain. His resurrection vindicates Him as the Lord of creation who is even now making all things new (Rev. 21:5 [http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/living-hope/, Dec 2016]).”
It is my sincere prayer for you this season that you would be strengthened and encouraged by the Living Hope we have as ones who have been touched by the light of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is our Living Hope in Him that allows us to hold on and stand strong during incredible pain and turmoil. Additionally, as our lives point all those around us to Christ, let us be reminded that we can serve as carriers of hope to those who have none this season, encouraging them to not place their hope in the finite and material but in the everlasting and sustaining person of Jesus Christ.
John Crisp is the founding member of BridgeHope, an organization specializing in utilizing technology to connect survivors with resources in their area. BridgeHope is currently in the development stages but hopes to launch later in 2017. Additionally, John is currently a grad student and local minister with a desire to teach/preach about the intricacies of transcending cultural and social barriers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.