It’s New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow, it will be a new year. 2017 will be over. It will be 2018.
When you think about it, New Year’s Day is probably about the most arbitrary holiday we have. There’s no real reason the year needs to start on January first. It could start on April twelfth or July ninth or October twenty-first. And there’s no real reason to make a big deal out of the start of a new year anyway. There’s nothing special that we’re commemorating. There’s nothing important that happened on this day. We simply turn a page on the calendar. We change one digit in the way we track the years. That’s it. It’s no big deal.
But when you think about it some more, turning that page on the calendar is kind of a big deal. Because when you turn that page, the next page is blank. In fact, there are three hundred sixty-five blank pages. Do you ever think of a year that way? Three hundred sixty-five blank pages. And each one of us is going to write a story on each one of those pages.
And the things is, each of those stories is going to be different. There will be some common elements--elements of comedy, of tragedy, of drama, of warmth. Elements of all the things that make up life. But how much of each of those elements there will be, what order they will come in--that will be different for each one of us.
And there’s one other thing that’s going to be different for each one of us. That’s how we handle all those elements of life. And that may be the most significant difference of all. Because we know, as the author of Ecclesiastes tells us, that in life there’s a time for everything. Weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, love and hate--there’s a time for all of those things. And the chances are that all of those things will show up on some of those blank pages that are stretching in front of us in this new year.
So, how do you feel about that? Are you happy, eager, looking forward to what’s going to happen, to how you’re going to fill those three hundred sixty-five blank pages that make up 2018? Or are you worried, apprehensive, fearful of what may happen, of what those pages may hold? Or, are you just kind of blasé about the whole thing, just kind of neutral, figuring that whatever happens is what’s going to happen and that’s just the way it is?
I’m not saying that any of those attitudes is wrong. It’s not like our outlook on 2018 is sinful, whatever it is. But I think God tells us how God would like us to feel in our reading from Isaiah for today.
Listen to this part of our reading again:
I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King. This is what the Lord says--Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
To me, God sounds excited in that passage. God is eager to do something new. God is so fired up about this new thing God is going to do that God can hardly wait to get started on it. And God wants us to get just as excited about this new thing that God is going to do as God is. I think you can just sense that excitement in the words God says there.
And it makes perfect sense to me that God would be excited about this. I mean, think of a time you decided to create something. You were excited about it, too, right? We’re always excited when we decide to create something. And the farther we get into it, and the more we can see that it might turn out to be something good, the more excited we get. And as it starts to really take shape, we just can hardly wait to show it to someone. And of course, when we do, we’re hoping they’ll be just as excited as we are about it. We want them to share the excitement we feel over this thing that we’re creating.
I think God feels that same way. I mean, God must enjoy creating, right? God created this world and everything in it. And God did that with care. God did that with love. God did that with attention to detail. Think of all the things that have to be just right for the world to be the way it is, for the world to work the way it does. When God created the world, God created a hundred, a thousand, a million things that would work together in just exactly the right way for everything in the world to work right. You only do that when you love to create. God loves to create. And God is happy when we appreciate God’s creativeness.
Our future, our 2018, is going to be created by God. Yes, the things we do have an impact on it. The things other people do have an impact on it, too. But if we truly mean what we say in our prayers, if we really mean it when we say “Thy will be done”, if we really surrender to God’s will and allow God’s Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us through life, our 2018 will be created by God.
So I think that, in large part, how we feel about those three hundred sixty-five blank pages that will make up our 2018 depends on how much we trust God. Do you, do I, trust God enough to allow God to write what goes on those three hundred sixty-five pages? And do you, do I, trust God enough that we believe whatever God writes on those pages will be good, will be right, will be best not just for ourselves but for everyone else, too?
This is not a rhetorical question. I want us all to think about it. Including me. We know what the answer should be. We know we should trust God with those three hundred sixty-five pages. But the question is not should we trust God. The question is do we trust God.
Because the truth is that it’s not always easy. It’s not always easy to trust God. Each one of us, sitting here today, has hopes and dreams of what 2018 might bring. We may not have told anyone about them. We may not have even really thought them through ourselves. But we have them. They may not be for anything fancy or special. They might be--we might have hopes of getting a better job or a new relationship or better health. We may have hopes that things will get better for a loved one. But our hopes may just be that our lives will continue on the same path they are right now, because we’re happy that way.
But whatever it is, we all have hopes and dreams of what 2018 might bring. That’s natural. But our hopes and dreams for 2018 may not be the same as God’s hopes and dreams for us in 2018. They might be, but they might not. God may have an entirely different plan for those three hundred sixty-five blank pages.
Now, sometimes we can see that God’s plan is a lot better than ours. When that happens, we eagerly jump on God’s plan. But sometimes, we cannot see that. In fact, sometimes we don’t understand God’s plan at all. Sometimes God’s plan makes no sense to us whatsoever. Sometimes we look to the heavens and say, “God, seriously? This is your plan for me? This is where you want me to go? This is what you want me to do? For real? How’s that ever going to work?”
It’s okay to ask questions like that. For one thing, asking questions like that helps us be sure that what we see really is God’s plan. Asking those questions can clarify in our mind if we really are being led by God, or if there’s something else going on here.
For another thing, God never minds if we ask honest questions. Remember the story of God telling Moses to go to Egypt and tell the Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go? There’s page after page of Moses questioning God. And God does not get mad at Moses for asking those questions. God just patiently answers them all. God does not mind if we ask questions.
But, just as with Moses, there comes the time where we realize that God has answered all our questions. And there’s only one thing left to be decided. Are we going to follow where God is leading us or not? Are we going to trust God enough to follow God’s plan, even when it’s different from our plan? Do we have enough faith in God to follow God’s plan even when we don’t understand it and even when, maybe, it really does not make any sense to us?
God has given us the gift of 2018. Three hundred sixty-five blank pages. God wants to do a new thing for each one of us on those pages. It is springing up even now. May each of us trust God enough to allow God to write on each of the three hundred sixty-five blank pages that will make up our 2018?