As the Christmas music starts to fade, many of us turn our attention now to the new year, just a few short days away.
Like every new year, this one starts with the promise of something exciting: opportunity. It's a new day, a new calendar, new chances to make our lives what we want them be.
Chances to take risks that we chickened out of in the past. Chances to make moves that we were too scared to make last time. Chances to try new things. Chances to become more of who we want to be. Chances to lose weight, break habits, start new routines and traditions. We are going to really take hold of this new year and milk it for all it's worth.
At least, that's what we say.
But we said that last year.
And the year before that.
But this year, it's going to be different. This year, we're really going to do it. We've got one more year of bad decisions and broken patterns under our belts, and this year, there's no fooling around. It's life or death. It's hope or despair. It's now or never.
This is going to be our year.
There's something almost intoxicating about it, this hope that we have. Something that keeps us coming back every year to make new resolutions...or make the same ones with a new kind of resolve, a resolve that feels different than the last time we decided to do it (even though, probably, it's the same...we've just forgotten what it feels like to be so full of hope).
And...there it is. It's hope. That's what the new year brings us more than anything else.
What's strange to me is that we always think hope is about the next thing; what if it's not? What if hope is about the last thing?
Let's not forget that we just finished celebrating a baby in a manger, and not just any baby - the Son of God. Jesus Christ, who crossed heaven and earth to be with us in the flesh. As we saw for the past three weeks, He is everything that we need Him to be (and more), and more importantly to many of us, He is the one thing that we need Him to be.
What if the hope that we feel this week is not because an entire year's worth of blank pages lay open before us, full of possibilities and opportunities and chances we're going to take? What if the hope that we feel right now is because there is still a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, dwelling among us, full of promise?
What if our hope isn't the new year after all, but the newborn?
What if it's not next week, but last week?
What if it's not what might happen next, but what already took place?
What if our hope is still Immanuel?