January is here, and we are knee deep in the crash and craze of Newness. I wonder what the earth thinks of our tumultuous occasion of the New Year, of our declaration of newness, as the planet rotates and circles the sun just like it did the day before, and as we all eat, sleep and breathe, just like we did the day before.
But the day and the month of this New Year, however physically intangible, are still significant as they beckon to us the chance for things fresh and new. New beginnings, new resolutions, new diets, and new haircuts- outward actions for inward desire- a chance to begin again.
This fad of Newness, though seemingly harmless, even beneficial to most, carries with it a secret layer most “new-doers” fail to see. Deep within the push for newness lies the roots of cynicism, of sardonic pride, or the desire to forget what is past. The Newness movement cries for the removal of the old, as though old is distasteful and worthless. We are to be new creatures, entirely independent of the old ones, and to remember the old is to refuse change. And in this letting go, this pushing out, this discarding of the old, we are taking away all the value we gain from becoming new. Does the earth not build on every day past to survive this new day?
When a person becomes heavy, and then loses the weight, all of his close (and distant) friends remark on this change. They remember the old, and compare it with the new. The new, the figure, is made significant by the figure of the old. Likewise, the person who has lost the weight has learned much more by becoming thin rather than always being thin, because of all he gleaned from his hard work along the way. Because of the old, the new has more value.
The same is true in regard to faith. Yes, we are sinners. We are broken, we are damaged, we are helpless. Yet, we are being helped, being saved, being justified and fixed by the only one capable. He is taking us and changing us and making us new.
And when Christ and his new kingdom come again, we will all be made new- without blemish, without fault, without sin.
But we won’t pretend sin never existed.
“Behold, I am making all things new!”
Such is the promise of Christ- to make all things new, to restore us to who we are meant to be. He will make us without sin, but will not make us so that we never were sinful. To do so would be to take away all we learned, all we walked through, all we saw of his love as we stumbled through a fallen world.
Today we must carry the old, even as we step into this year of new. We must carry the hurt and we must carry the lessons as we walk holding his hand through both valleys and mountains. We’ll stare our faults, our fears, our shortcomings straight in the eye, knowing they will push us further into the arms of unconditional love; knowing they will one day be gone, but that their lessons for us never will.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!”
The old is gone but the old still matters. The old of our sin opens wide the new of his grace. Hands were pierced, a life was given for us in all our old; mercy is still extended in every morning we journey toward the new. It is in the old that we see the extent of his love, and in our becoming new the extent of his power.
In all the newness of this new month, the temptation to discard the old runs wild. Yet how dim and dull is the paint of the new when made without the brush of the old.
And how extravagant are the colors of the new painting, when the painter knows the old, yet is new!