10…9…8… the excitement of a new year is upon us. At some point, I’m sure most of you have celebrated the new year by counting down with friends or family. This year, more than ever, there seems to be an excitement to put 2020 in the rear-view mirror and start fresh in 2021. I recently read a joke that said we should have all been raising up our left foot when the new year came so that we could have started the new year on the right foot.
New Year’s is a time of new beginnings. It brings hope. This year there is hope of a better future with a COVID vaccine, there is hope for political unrest to calm down, there is hope that jobs will be back and businesses will be opened, there is hope that we can return to a sense of normalcy in our daily lives.
New Year’s can also be a picture of our lives before and after faith in Christ. Our conversion is much like a New Year’s celebration where we are reminded “out with the old and in with the new”. Before our conversion, we were dead in our trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1, Col. 2:13a). Before our conversion, we were destined for eternal death. But these verses remind us that we WERE dead in our trespasses and sins. As a Christian, this is past tense. In conversion, Christ has made us alive and we now have eternal life. Out with the old and in with the new.
Christ accomplishes this through the forgiveness of sins (Col. 2:13b) and by making us into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This new creation is filled with the love of Christ because Christ now dwells in us (Rom. 8:10). Since Christ now dwells in us, in His love we are now able to fulfill the law that God has required of us. As a Christian, our old self has been crucified with Christ and Christ now lives in us and works through us.
Our conversion, like New Year’s, is a time of new beginnings and of celebration. As we celebrate the New Year holiday, we are reminded to celebrate the great changes that God has worked in our lives. He has forgiven our sins, He has saved us, He has renewed our minds, He dwells within us (equipping us for what He has called us to do), and He gives us hope of a better life now and for all eternity when He comes again.
Interestingly, all the above promises are attached to the Sacraments. This is one of the reasons we value the Sacraments so dearly in the Lutheran Church. This is why you may be told to “remember your Baptism” and also why we serve Communion frequently. In the sacraments, God attaches the promises we hold so dearly.
When we remember our Baptism we remember the promises attached to Baptism: salvation, forgiveness, renewal, and indwelling of His Spirit. We remember that our sins are forgiven when we take and eat His body and drink His blood in Communion. We remember these things so that we can celebrate the hope we have in Christ much like we celebrate the hope of a New Year.
God points us to those events in our life for us to remember our standing before Him. He also shows us that we are now equipped (by the Holy Spirit) to live a holy life. We live a holy life because our sins are really, truly forgiven and because the Spirit does really, truly live within us. If the Holy Spirit lives within us, naturally, we obey His commandments because God really, truly working in us and through us. He leads and direct us to do good works in which we were created to do (Eph. 2:10).
As we take time to celebrate this New Year season, we remember the previous struggles and look to the hope of the next year. As Christians, it is good for us to remember our sinfulness and the result that our sins deserve – death. We also remember the hope we have in God’s forgiveness for our present life (as we strive to live a holy life) and eternal life.
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