For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:Eccl 3:1-4
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…
For everything there is a season, our first Old Testament reading of 2021 reminds us, including a time to keep in mind that we can make too much of a changing calendar. A time to step back and see time in a wider perspective; a time to remember that God has put “a sense of the past and future” into our minds (v 11) and balance our expectations for what’s to come with our recollection of what’s been.
But wise as this wisdom literature is, it can’t tell the whole story. There may be nothing new under the sun, but Christians believe that something new has arrived under the light of the Bethlehem star. History is not an endlessly repeating cycle (“Turn, turn, turn”) after all.
For everything there is a season, and in Christmas that means that Jesus’ time to be born brings us second birth. The myrrh of the Magi reminds us that Jesus will face a time to die… “that man no more may die.”
So as we continue to celebrate Christ’s coming, our New Testament readings for this first day of 2021 look to the time he will come again: not in a manger, attended by shepherds startled by angels, but “in his glory, and all the angels with him, then will he sit on the throne of his glory” to bring justice to all the nations (Matt 25:31). Even as New Year’s Day reminds us of the rise-and-fall rhythms of mortal existence, our ongoing celebration of God breaking into history prepares us to anticipate God ending history, as one who is the Alpha and the Omega completes his work of making all things new:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.Rev 21:1:-4
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”