There and Back Again

As we just celebrated the birthday of the King of the world, I think it is fitting on this New Year’s Day to celebrate the birthday of the world itself. And while our calendars say the world has just gotten another year older, we as Christians should see it from a different point of view.

As creatures made in the image of God we will naturally look to endings with a longing for new beginnings. Every fairy tale ends with a new beginning. Every happy ending is a “happily ever after” that opens the imagination to another “once upon a time.” The ancient eastern religions longed for this but distorted it into various versions of reincarnation, a perpetual cycle of endings and beginnings. This is not what I am describing here. The Lord of history is not moving the world through repeating cycles. Rather, He is, in the famous words of Tolkien in The Hobbit, taking us there and back again.

The Gregorian calendar was right to divide the years of the world into B.C. and A.D. The great turning point in history was the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Up until that point, the world was growing older. Everything was moving towards death. But with the coming of God the Son into the world in which he created, history began to move backwards so to speak from death to birth. The old world began to grow into the new heavens and new earth. Our history timeline starts around 4000 B.C. (I agree here with the dating of scholars such as Bishop James Ussher and Sir Isaac Newton) and moves backwards towards the birth of Jesus and forward to this anticipation of final fulfillment.

We are now entering into the 2,013th year since the mark of that great event. And while there’s no mistaking the fact that many things are indeed growing older and moving towards their end, this is not the way the world itself is moving. Indeed, it is not the way we as the people of God are moving. We are growing younger. As the Apostle Paul states it, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

In a way, we should be counting backwards now. If we could see the end from the beginning, we would see that the coming of Christ into the world has begun to undo all that sin had corrupted. Death lost its sting. Endings were transformed into glorious beginnings. Death now gives way to resurrection. The journey to the dragon’s cave leads to seeing life in the shire through new eyes. We are being led there and back again by One who has gone before us.

The past year, like most years, had its share of endings and beginnings, mountains and valleys. Many of us mourned the loss of someone we loved. There were tragedies and sufferings and unanswered questions. 2012 also brought new beginnings. There were births, marriages, decisions, and events that began wonderful new stories in our lives. But what I want to remind myself as I step into a new year is that Christ Jesus makes all things new. Wherever He has taken me this past year, wherever He takes me in the year to come, the one thing in which I can rest is that He is taking me (and everything else) another year closer to the beginning of happily ever after.

So Happy Birthday, world! You are another year younger.

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