Happy New Year! For many people the New Year is just another day. For some it is a holiday, a time to party with friends or a chance to watch a football game or parade. Now that the New Year is over...so what? Does it really matter that it is 2018, or any New Year for that matter? After all, new years have been coming and going from the beginning of time. Did you ever stop and think that something as simple as the New Year is really the key to understanding the meaning and purpose of our lives?
Few people ever stop to think that a New Year marks the beginning of something new, namely a new cycle of the Earth around of the Sun. Right now the Earth is turning at 1000 miles/hour on its axis every 24 hours. In addition to that rapid turning, the Earth is moving at 67,000 miles/hour around the Sun. And if those numbers don't surprise you, stop and reflect on the fact that our Solar System is orbiting around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy at 490,000 miles/hour. And while we may sometimes think that not much is happening around us, we are in a drama that cannot be fathomed by the greatest scientist.
Now the one thing that makes the New Year amazing is the fact that the Earth is moving at these breathtaking speeds on a 23.5° axis from vertical. This often-missed detail explains why we have our seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall. When certain areas of the Earth are closer to the Sun it leads to spring and summer and when they are farther away we get fall and winter. Right now, in the Northern Hemisphere here in Michigan, our days are getting longer following the Winter Solstice on December 21, so we are moving toward spring. In the Southern Hemisphere in nations like Brazil, their days are getting shorter, so they are moving toward fall.
For many people the simple story of the Earth moving around the Sun on its axis creating the seasons is not too exciting or even seen as an incredible miracle. We tend to take the seasons for granted and live accordingly. And yet, can you imagine life without seasons or can you imagine a world where it is always winter or summer? The reason we can't really imagine that is because IF the seasons ever changed there wouldn't be life as we know it. Scientists have speculated that without seasons the world as we know it wouldn't exist. As one scientist put it in an article entitled, "What If There Were No Seasons?" by Natalie Wolchover,
In a world without seasons, there wouldn't even be wheat. According to Don Attwood, an ecological anthropologist at McGill University in Montreal, humans would probably never have advanced past a state of living in small, scattered settlements, scrounging for survival and often dying of horrific insect-borne diseases.
In other words, if we didn't have a New Year and a cycle of the seasons the world would fall apart for a hundred scientific reasons we never think about. That is true because the world is a complex place that is finely tuned by the Lord to maintain life around the world. The New Year and cycle of seasons allow humanity to be "fruitful and multiply" as the Lord first blessed us in Genesis 1:28. If you change anything in the cycle you disrupt things completely. Without new seasons, crops don't and won't grow the same. Bugs and diseases would multiply and destroy our food supplies because they are not limited by winters. Large populations would not be able to live in many areas of the Earth due to these harsh and unchanging conditions. No, the New Year and our cycle of seasons are essential for everything going on in our world today and they are a true miracle to behold.
That said, the greatest miracle of the New Year and cycle of seasons is that they are a preeminent witness to the Lord Jesus Christ and His love for us. Every New Year the Lord is teaching us we can be new people because of the redemptive seasons of His life. Our Lord Jesus called the world to come to Him, died on a Cross, was buried and rose again from the dead with a wonderful promise to return. Our Lord's call to return to Him is a fall season of repentance and reflection on the fact that winter is coming. Death always follows sin and we can all sense that we live in a fallen world that one day will face some sort of judgment. The Good News is that our falls and winters of sin and death are covered by His grace. Our Lord tasted death (winter) for all of us (Hebrews 2:9) so we might be forgiven. His Resurrection in the spring of the year is a reminder that death has been conquered with new life, as surely as every hard winter is followed by a glorious spring. And finally, our Lord reminds us that His new life is a gift to us that will be experienced in fullness at His return when we can truly blossom and grow in the summer of life eternal. Yes, it is truly an amazing and awesome miracle to see the New Year and the seasons of the Lord's redeeming love.
Now this wonderful connection between the New Year seasons and our Lord's life and ministry is beautifully tied together in John 12:23 where our Lord says,
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
As our Lord heads to the Cross, He reminds everyone that nature's witness has already told the story they all know from daily life. Every seed must first die, so it can later live and bring forth a harvest. The death of the Lord Jesus Christ was THE necessary condition for us to live as surely as winter must precede spring in every New Year. These simple, basic lessons of life that people celebrated as the New Year of 2018 began is the timeless voice of the Lord calling us to Himself and His redemptive story of life.
As we head into 2018, let's understand what a New Year is really all about. It truly is a miracle of God's love to us. Let's celebrate that we can live a new life without sin and its penalties. Let's celebrate that as winter is slowing dying now, it will open the way for a glorious spring to arrive and remind us that our Lord Jesus Christ is alive forevermore. Now that is a New Year worth celebrating now and forever more.