Happy New Year! Another year has come and gone and it always amazes everyone how fast the year flies by! The last week of the year brings plenty of happy greetings as people truly hope and believe each new year will be happier than the last.
It is amazing how quickly things change isn’t it? We pulled into our driveway after a leisurely time of looking at antiques to shout “Happy New Year” to our neighbor across the street and received the same loud and happy greeting in return. Ten minutes later an ambulance and police car were parked in front of their house and her brother was being taken to the hospital. On Facebook I see a picture of a lovely lady and her three young children with a short explanation of how she lost her husband, their dad, earlier this year, and this was a “celebration of life” photo shoot. I read about a family in mourning after their 23-year old son was home on leave from the army and passed in his sleep the first night home before Christmas. I read about babies healthy one minute and in the hospital the next with croup, pneumonia, and the like. In a moment, life changed for each of these people and everyone around them.
While looking at antiques, a man seemed to follow me from aisle to aisle, talking loudly on his cell phone about a man he is “fed up” with, who one minute is in jail and the next is out, who continues to hang with his drug buddies, doesn’t have a job, and who ought to be locked up for a long time so he really “feels the pain”. He tells the person on the other end of the call that his mom and sister borrowed money to buy his kids Christmas gifts and then he turned around and sold them all to buy more drugs. He vents his frustration loudly about a man he thinks is beyond hope of change. My daughter tells me of a young 29-year old lady who had a stroke and dies almost instantly. A policeman is shot in the head protecting a girl from a man who had “lost it” and later dies as a result. In a moment, life changes for each of these people and everyone around them.
Oh, there are good things that happen suddenly as well. Babies are born and though it may take hours of labor, in a moment, they come from “in” mommy’s body to “out” in this world! Weddings take months or even years of preparation but in a moment, people go from single to married state. People spend years in school and in one moment, they go from student to graduate. Teenagers take driver’s education classes, complete their behind-the-wheel hours, practice driving with licensed drivers for months, and in a moment, they take a test and get their license. One minute they are not allowed to drive alone, and in the next they can go it alone.
My husband recently added another senior pastor position to his ministry and though it took months of prayer, searching, and preparation for the Church and us to decide and then start but when he stepped into his office on that first day, he went from “pastor to be” to “senior pastor” in a moment. Our daughter went to beauty school. Every haircut, color, perm, highlight, facial, etc. had to be “checked” by an instructor. But when she finished all requirements, passed all her tests, and graduated, she was on her own! One moment she needed an instructor to check her work, the next she didn’t.
And so it is that with each passing year, the new one comes in a moment! One second it will be 2011 and the next it will be 2012. People are planning their celebrations, deciding where they will be when the clock strikes midnight, who they want to be with and how they will bring in the New Year, and ultimately, nothing and everything changes in that one moment. Well, maybe more realistically, we have no idea what will change or what will not change in any given moment or any given year! The only thing we are assured of is that change happens.
At the end of most things, including years, people rehash or reminisce about what “was”. At the end of life we celebrate the person. At the end of pregnancy we celebrate life. At the end of schooling we celebrate no more need to study. At the end of sickness we celebrate health. In our celebrations, we generally recall the good and the bad, focusing more on one than the other depending on the situation and our outlook on life.
At year-end we think about all we did or didn’t achieve, we recount our failures and successes, our gains and losses, and our dashed hopes or expected fears realized. We hear people say the coming year has to be better, or that it can’t be any worse than the last one. Or some are so excited because they are getting married, having a baby, graduating, or starting something else new to them. Also at year-end, people generally move onto thinking at least a little bit about goals and expectations for the coming year, renewed hopes and dreams, and/or make resolutions they “vow” to keep this year.
What does all this mean? The New Year is coming whether we like it or not. The clock will tick, midnight will strike, a new day arrives just like every other one, and a new year begins. We can choose to embrace all that it brings, the good and the bad, but whether we embrace them or not we WILL experience many things just like every other year.
In the same way that a new year comes, Jesus will one day return. The Bible tells us that one day, in a moment, everything will change. Whether we believe it or not is just a matter of what will happen to us personally in that moment, just like any other moment here on earth. The question is will we embrace what that moment brings or not. Because with all certainty we will all experience it at the same time.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
You see, this coming and change, like most things in life is a mystery. 2012 is coming and will bring with it changes in our lives, but at this point they are mysteries. We don’t understand exactly “when” or “how” the changes are going to occur upon Jesus’ return but it will happen just as assuredly as the clock turns midnight each passing day and year.
The truth is most everything in life is a mystery. Marriage is a mystery in that we have no idea how deep and intimate this union can really be as we give ourselves totally and completely to another. Pregnancy and birth is a mystery because we don’t know how this child will change our lives. We don’t know the challenges, hurts, and joys we will experience through this life. What happens after graduation is a mystery. Will all our education pay off? Will we get a job? Will we be able to use all the knowledge and expertise we have gained through years of study out in the world? What happens after the death of a loved one is a mystery. What will life be like when we imagined a lifetime WITH this person? Will we always be sad, look at life differently, feel the void, and wonder “what if”?
So they mystery of living in Christ and His return isn’t as far-fetched as some people think, when we know that life itself is mysterious and that in any given moment, any time we blink our eyes, life can change! One minute you are here and the next you might not be. One moment your spouse can be with you, the next they can be gone. One moment you are unemployed, the next you have a job. One moment you are a student, the next you are a graduate. One moment you are a single man or woman, the next you are a husband or wife. One moment you are a woman or man, the next you are a mommy or daddy. The list goes on, and on, and on!
You see, whether you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior or not, He is still coming back, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet! Is it a mystery? Absolutely! But so is life! Everything in life unfolds with each passing day, with more mysteries awaiting us! Jesus reveals Himself more to us with each passing day, with more mysteries awaiting those who believe. That is what makes life in Jesus so incredibly exciting and blessed!
My prayer is that those who believe in Jesus will live each moment in a heightened awareness of His return! And that those who don’t believe will live each moment in a heightened awareness that maybe, just maybe, this Jesus is real, that He does love them, and that He does have a plan of salvation for them as well. Because truth is: He Is and He does!