The Bible is a book about “beginnings.” The material universe began with God’s creative act, bringing into being what till then had existed only in his own infallible mind and plan. Human life began when God created Adam and Eve.
Our human alienation from God began with Adam’s sin which was also the beginning of the curse which God consequently placed on the creation. After the flood which God brought upon the world in Noah’s time in judgment for human wickedness, Noah led a new beginning when he emerged from the ark along with its other occupants. However, it was not “new” in the sense of destroying the sinfulness of the human heart. It would take another beginning, in the incarnation of the Son of God, to achieve that.
This is the greatest beginning of all, when God became man, in Jesus Christ. It was a new beginning for God himself in the Person of the Son, for not till then did God possess humanness, with its entire range of human experience. And of course, it meant that the Son incarnate would die on the Cross the death due to us for our sins.
Then again, we find another stupendous beginning in Christ’s resurrection from the dead, followed by his ascension and his session at God’s right hand in heaven. This is, as John “Rabbi” Duncan commented, “the dust of the earth on the throne of the universe”, inconceivable apart from the incarnation and exaltation of Jesus the God-man.
In our human experience, the greatest new beginning is in our being “born again”, in which the Holy Spirit brings us to life having been till then “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2 v 1). By this, we brought into an entirely new phase of life, one which death can never again disrupt. For we are assured that through faith in Christ we come to possess eternal life, brought to its climax in our resurrection in Christ’s likeness followed by our being glorified with him.
That too belongs to a new beginning; that of God’s final order, “a new heaven and a new earth”, from which sin and death have been permanently eradicated. Consequently, ‘neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold I am making all things new”’ (Revelation 21 v 1-5).
As the calendar shows that a new year has begun, may we experience the richness of new beginnings in Christ - individually, in family life, in new church plants, in our established congregations and, not least, in our national life.
Rev. James Maciver (Stornoway Free Church)