Weary of failed fitness plans, blown budgets, and ridiculous resolutions? Me too. Perhaps we should just take a pass this year. It’s just another day on the calendar, right?
Wrong. Dead Wrong. There’s no such thing as “just another day.” Humans are hard-wired for hope. We embrace the New: a new day, a new project, a new venture, a new hobby, a new friend, a New Year. We can’t help it. Anything less is a denial of life itself.
Yes, sometimes we greet the sunrise with groans, but we know in our bones that this is not our best self. Sleep is not an end in itself: it is a time of rejuvenation, intended to birth a new desire to live a brand new day. Sickness sleeps all day. Health seizes the day. Carpe Diem!
It reminds me of something the prophet Jeremiah said a long time ago:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning
Great is your faithfulness
These are life-giving, carpe diem-type, words. Words chock-full of hope, challenging us to take a bite out of life. Words which invite us to greet the morning with a “barbaric yawp.”
And — perhaps to our surprise — words birthed from the dark night of the soul.
Jeremiah’s hope-filled song emerged from the ashes of everything that mattered to him: his home, his temple, his city, his friends, his health. His whole world had burned to the ground. This poem (the book of Lamentations) is his gut-wrenching, yet hope-imbued, response to a national tragedy.
Lamentations is a bleak book. Everywhere he looks, all Jeremiah sees is destruction and darkness: “My soul is bereft of peace,” he says (3:17). In the middle of his lament, however, he calls to mind God’s steadfast love, God’s daily mercy, and God’s great faithfulness. As he muses on these truths, despair is turned to hope: “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope” (3:21, 24).
Hope is a powerful force. With it life is beautiful; without it life is meaningless. Looking around him, all Jeremiah saw was destruction: hope had vanished (3:18). Looking above him, Jeremiah remembered God’s mercy, love and faithfulness. As he did, hope — like the new day, like the New Year – was rekindled from the ashes (3:21-24). “The Lord is my portion,” he says to himself, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Jeremiah found hope in the ashes of his life. But where did he find it?
The secret is found in the words, “in him.” Not in circumstances. Not in resolutions. Not in relationships. Not in health, or wealth, or anything else. “I will hope … in him.” But in whom?
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere! Our hope is “in him”: in the God whose face we see in the person of Jesus. It is not found in a positive outlook; it is found in a Person. Christian hope is grounded in the reality of Jesus’ Incarnation, his Crucifixion, his Resurrection, and his Ascension.
Incarnation: The Creator God Clothed in Creation
God shared every nook and cranny of our humanity: our weariness, our hunger, our disappointments, our joys, our sorrows – the whole of our human lives. Jesus embraced our enfleshed selves, thus blessing and sanctifying our humanity. How can we help but embrace it ourselves?
Hope in the midst of our humanity: Carpe Diem!
Crucifixion: The Human God Hanging on a Tree
Jesus died our death, bore our shame, shared our suffering, experienced our abandonment, and despite it all, forgave our sin. In a mystery beyond imagination, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” Humanity mocked; Earth trembled; Heaven wept. It was the most evil day in history, and yet we call it Good Friday.
Hope in the face of suffering: Carpe diem!
Resurrection: The Risen God of New Creation
Conquering sin and death, raised to new life, clothed in immortality, Jesus is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (including us). “Death, where is your victory?”
Hope that dethrones death: Carpe Diem!
Ascension: The Lord God of Heaven and Earth
“All authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to [him].” To whom? To the humanity-sharing, God-with-us-living, shameful-sin-bearing, forever exalted Jesus of Nazareth. He sits on the throne of his rescued creation, and empowers us to “walk in newness of life,” for, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Hope that births new creation: Carpe Diem!
By all means, embrace the New Year with joy and hope. But don’t do it with resolutions. These are bound to disappoint. Replace resolutions with resolve: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, therefore … I … will … hope … in … him.”
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Happy New Year!