I love New Years Day! It is one of a few days during the year in which it is possible to kick back and do some serious reflections on life — something I truly enjoy. (There are a few other times like this: Birthdays, September 1st, Anniversaries, special occasions such as funerals and weddings, and family reunions.) Most of the time we’re too busy, too pre-occupied with just living to take this kind of time. It’s too bad, because it is in times like these that we are able to reorient ourselves, to become spiritually and emotionally re-centered. Actually, we need daily time for this in one form or another. For me, that happens each morning, but occasions like this are extended opportunities for reflection, biblical truth meditation, and prayer.
As I grow older I am struck by the relative insignificance and superficiality of so much of what we focus on in our individual lives. In the context of all the knowledge in the world, all the history of the world, all the people of the world, and the larger plan of God regarding the origin and destiny of the world, the things with which we often tend to occupy our time seem relatively unimportant. It seems a quirk of human nature that people tend to value the things that are in the most immediate sphere of their attention — their jobs, making money, recreation, sports, food, travel, sexual indulgence, fun, laughter, family relationships. All of these have their legitimate place, of course. But our human default tends to make them central, instead of the larger issues and questions of life.
Call me a philosophical kind of soul if you like, but I truly believe that we need to regularly take time to consider our lives in the context of the larger picture. I suppose there are many ways in which to do this including reading or listening to the great classics of our time. (The very idea of something being “classic,” it seems, is that it has the quality of making us think deeply about life.) But for me, it always comes back to seeing life in the context of the Big Story itself as it has come down to us in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
Just now, for example, I am beginning a re-read of Genesis while also having just finished, at the same time, a reading of Revelation. Perhaps it is this focus, both on the beginning and end of civilization, that has made me more reflective about the relative brevity of our lives along with a sense of the superficiality of much of what we tend to think is important to life. Revelation, for example, ends with a description of the world system in terms of the City of Babylon and how a time is coming (perhaps sooner than we realize) when all of it will come to a horrific and sudden end — tossed into the sea of destruction, never to rise again. A good equivalent of what Babylon is all about, I think, is so well-represented in what we all get to see on television as New York’s New Year’s Eve extravaganza. A classic movie comes to mind — The Titanic. In the midst of all kinds of human hubris and reckless partying, a certain doom looms that suddenly enters to bring it all to a tragic end.
At the other end of the story, through the emergence of Abraham, God begins to carve out a community whose focus will ultimately be “a city, whose builder and maker is God.” History consists in all that is involved in seeing this kingdom established. We learn that it ultimately comes through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
And so here we are in 2015, at the beginning of another calendar year of this story whose beginning and ending has already been established. The only question has to do with how each of our lives will fit in with this great story. Fortunately, by God’s grace, we can find our place in that story through a response of faith to God’s great revelation. I am thankful and happy to exist at this time in this place. More than anything, I want to know, as much as possible how my very, very small existence can contribute to the completion of God’s very large story. I really look forward to the time immediately before me (this year) to see how God will cause the various components of my life to intersect with his story.