By Helen Lambert
New Year, new you! New Year’s resolutions. New “normal”. New cases. New vaccine. New variant. New rules. New lockdown. Do you ever wish things would stop being quite so new? 2020 was a whole new experience for everyone – not just in Ash Vale, not just in the UK, but on the whole planet. But what about you? Do you feel renewed? Or just wrung out? The “new” has become “old” and we would all like to move on, but times remain uncertain and precarious.
Let us not be quick to forget what we celebrated at Christmas – in whatever limited way we were able – the coming of the New-born King, the one who himself brought the promise of New Life to all who would accept it. The prophet Isaiah had already told us many years before that God’s plan was to do something new: “I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth…” (Isaiah 43:19); and Jeremiah spoke of a “New Covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31). Jesus spoke of himself as the one who would make this New Covenant possible – the one who would restore our broken relationship with our Creator God and give us a fresh new start.
So, how does this change things for us, as we look ahead to the unknowns of the coming year, and the “knowns” of our old selves that we would so love to see transformed?
Let us turn to the words of the apostle Paul in his second letter to the church in Corinth.
Here we can see that peace with God is a gift (v18) – better than any we might have received at Christmas! What promise are we given in v18? Here we find “newness” that matters, newness that lasts, newness that is life changing! If we choose to follow the Christ whose birth we just celebrated we will see everything from a different, new perspective (v16). We are told that we can become a new person and begin a new life (v18)! The amazing thing about this is that it doesn’t depend on our keeping our New Year’s resolutions, sticking to our diet or fitness plan, coming out of Lockdown, or even getting the COVID jab. It is a gift that depends only on the unconditional generosity of the Giver, who wants nothing more than for us to be at peace with Him, whatever we are going through!
With this new life, we have a new purpose (v15, 18). We may feel we have lost our sense of purpose as we struggle to adjust to changed circumstances but, as Paul tells the Corinthian believers, there is meaning outside of ourselves and our immediate situations. Living for Christ means living for others, and peace with God enables us to find peace with others. Too good to be true? If it were all up to us, then perhaps it might be. But the good news is that is God himself who does the renewing, who changes us from the inside out by his own Spirit. We have a “new commandment” too – to love one another in the same unconditional way that God has loved and accepted us. And we have a new identity, one which isn’t tied to what we do, how good or successful we are, whether we are sick or healthy, what we look like or who our friends are. Our new identity is that we are God’s dearly loved children, who can know his presence and purpose in the worst and the best times.
As Christians we look forward with hope to a time when Christ returns and when there will be no more pain and suffering, no more COVID, no more struggles: “See, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5), but we don’t need to wait until the end of time to begin to see this at work. The transformation begins with us (v17), but it doesn’t depend on us. God will do it. If we let him, he will make us new from the inside by his Spirit, and as we embark on this new life, we will also see how he transforms the situations we are in and the way we experience them (v16,17).
In the words of the Confession that many say in church every Sunday, we ask God to “grant that we may serve him in newness of life”. Can this be our prayer as we walk forwards through the unknowns of 2021?
2 Corinthians 5:15-18
15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
Bible Gateway link is here if you would like to explore the rest of the chapter: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Corinthians+5%3A15-18&version=NIV