For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
For those who find themselves in the depths of despair or worry, the familiar words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 might sound ominous…an assertion that we human beings are caught in an endless, repetitive cycle of futility. Where is the meaning in life when (as the proverb says) “the more things change, the more they stay the same?”
And we might well have some sympathy for those who find themselves in that mental and emotional space, if indeed we are not already in that space ourselves. After nearly two years of pandemic turmoil, social uncertainty, political unrest, and rapid, chaotic change, it would not be strange to approach the new year before us with a sense of dread or, at the very least, a certain heightened caution as we wonder what’s up next. Tired, frustrated, and a bit leery of the future is pretty much where all of us live these days.
But the writer reminds us that “every matter under heaven” also bears the possibility of great hope…that while there is always time for dying, killing, weeping, losing, hating, there is also time for birth and healing, laughter and love. The human experience, fraught as it is with imperfection and sin, is a mixed bag of good and evil, of soaring to new heights one day and failing miserably the next. And it has always been this way since our first parents were expelled from Eden to figure out life in a work-a-day world. The more things change, the more they stay the same…indeed.
Yet there is one other constant in this that is the true ground of hope for a new year. We have also the unshakeable presence of God. And this has also been true since the beginning. God goes with Adam and Eve from the garden to protect and encourage them as they make their way in the world. David, in the Shepherd’s Psalm, sings with thanksgiving that “You are with me.” And in the most stunning example, God chooses to walk in the midst of creation, taking on and defeating fear and death by means of Cross and Resurrection…an event that overflows with the power of the Holy Spirit that still binds us to our Lord and awakens us to share this Good News with the world.
Will 2022 continue to surprise and challenge us? Of course. That’s simply the way the world works. But we enter this new year with the confidence that we are not stuck here all by ourselves. We walk and work together. And we are held together by the God who continues to love, nurture, and encourage us along the way…making sure that every matter under heaven includes what matters for our lives and witness, too. We go with the God who chooses to go with us. Happy New Year! †