What a relief New Year must be to secular folk after the ordeal of Christmas. For some of the movers and shakers in our culture, Christmas is just too embarrassing, too religious and needs replacing with a tame Winter festival. Cheerio Christianity with your rules and ancient texts. Hello, Hogmanay! Just take me to the nearest New Year party.
Now, I can live without sentimental Victorian values and religious claptrap, but all that saccharine stuff isn’t the Christianity of the Bible. It heals no marriages, wipes away no tears and has no answer to pain or death. If I’m going to a PARTY, particularly one that emphasises the passing of time, I want a real reason to party. There had better be more to New Year than Shetland fiddlers on the TV, even if ably assisted by Sanjeev Kohli in a kilt.
What will we celebrate on 1st January? Personally, I manage to enjoy both Christmas and New Year a whole lot more because of my faith in Jesus. He brings light and joy to a dark universe where the arrow of time is heading somewhere. Jesus gives his followers two vital perspectives at the turn of the New Year.
JESUS GIVES PERMISSION TO GRIEVE
I need to grieve my many missed opportunities and past mistakes. I let folk down. Some reading this grieve because they are childless, jobless, bereaved or dealing with stress. Their year ends in pain. It’s OK to grieve, but a Christian faces the past and future with eyes of FAITH. Paul told a young church, ‘do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope’. We regret things, but not as unbelievers. We bring our pain and failures to God asking for his concern. The fact is that Jesus died and rose again. That takes the sting from our grief. Our pain is understood by God and it matters to him. The turning of the year is a good time to time to say sorry and turn our grief over to God.
JESUS GIVES PERMISSION TO HOPE
For Hogmanay young Scots have been asked to choose a #ScotWord explaining why they are proud to live here. What word would you choose from this list? #CULTURE #BRAW #WELCOME #HAME #ALIVE #DIVERSE #BONNIE. I like to think that ALL seven words apply to each of our local churches, where God’s family gathers to learn from God, grow together, pray, sing and be challenged to follow Jesus more closely. I know of no place more diverse or inclusive than the Christian church, our spiritual hame. But I need to add #HOPE. Biblical hope is being confident now that our faithful God has promised to act and he holds the future.
In 2018 our churches and our lives must be places that deal with grief and encourage a hope by depending on Jesus. God’s Son loved me, died for me, defeated death, rules over history and he is coming back. On that, I rest my hope for all the years to come.
With a mix of grief and of hope, I wish you and yours a very happy New Year.
Angus MacRae is minister at Dingwall & Strathpeffer Free Church in Ross-shire. He is Chair of the Board of Ministry and has been a Free Church minister since 1992.