“Planned obsolescence” is one of the least-well-kept secrets of twenty-first century economics. “They don’t make things like they used to,” expresses our reaction to many of the products we purchase, use, and find too quickly inadequate, perhaps even no longer functioning. In our practice of preaching the forgiveness of sins, new life in Christ, and a life of salvation—the total welfare program of our God, supplying peace, order, stability, and blessings of all kinds—we are on God’s production line of the newest of the new. For God makes all things new. What God makes new lasts. God’s newness has ultimate staying power. God’s newly created products include the sinners whom He has chosen as His own. These are the people whom He has placed in front of preachers as we proclaim and pronounce the end of their existence as sinners and their return to the shape for which God made them. Every day He drowns His straying Israel, and every day He raises us up as His new creation. Every day is the beginning of a new year in the Lord for believers.
As the new year of 2021 begins, around the world it brings the hope of liberation from lockdowns, the end of spiraling numbers of death certificates, and social distancing by the creatures of whom God said, “It is not good for Adam to be alone.” The year 2021 brings the hope of social peace instead of a public arena dominated by calls for division, defensiveness, discord—all turning us in on ourselves so we will be more vulnerable to domination by those intent on leading people into pride, anger, and hatred. Such attitudes and actions of hostility and divisiveness are the characteristics to which Cain succumbed in the most dramatic demonstration outside Eden of what the Fall really meant for daily life (Genesis 4). Only by the mark of Cain that all sinners bear does the world survive under God’s providential grace and care.
Into that world Jesus of Nazareth presents Himself as the one who received on January 1—according to our festal calendar—the name “Savior,” “Yeshua,” our Joshua. He is the one who came as a revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel, the one who brought Jerusalem its Exodus from bondage, its true liberation (Luke 2:29-38). This Jesus puts another mark on us, the mark of His cross, the mark Martin Luther suggested placing again on ourselves each morning to remind us this new day, like this new year, is a day of the Lord and His baptized people.
This Jesus puts another mark on us, the mark of His cross.
God makes all things new. He refashions us from those turned in upon ourselves, turned to idols of our own choice and making, to experience the freedom He gives by pronouncing us His righteous children.
I am the type who does not like to go shopping for new products. If the old lawn mower will continue to mow with just a new rubber band to hold things in place, I am not going to go looking for a new one. “Business as usual”—the way we used to do it, the way we are used to doing it—is simply the most comfortable. That is one reason why in times of plague we are reluctant to conform to common sense safety precautions. But Jesus Christ comes as the newly born Savior to end the business-as-usual of the sinful defensive maneuvers we practice to maintain our own control over life. Jesus was born to rescue us from the kind of control that only enslaves us to our inwardly turned desire to master our own lives on our own terms. Jesus’ death means the death of our will to stand on our own two feet and do our own thing. Jesus’ birth means a new way of life, the beginning of the practice of godliness rather than idolatry. The mystery of sin and evil in the lives of the baptized makes it necessary for us not to go back to ground zero, but to admit each day that we have slipped and need to recharge our trust in him, our godly perception of the world around us.
There really is no going back to life without Christ. People try it, and they die on the run from their heavenly Father. God is the Lord of history. The people to whom we preach are those who have some history of God’s claim upon them. We wish there were more unbaptized in our services. We want to be speaking to more of those in whom the Holy Spirit has fired the desire or at least created the opportunity to hear the Gospel but who are still shy of trusting Christ. Nonetheless, most of our hearers are those to whom God has said, “I want you.” “You are my child, and I am your Father, committed to you.” That has happened as the Holy Spirit created the new life and relationship with our Creator for us and in us. This new life so easily becomes shabby, however, and the tarnish sullies and stains our hearts and minds, our actions and performance. But Jesus comes hunting us down as we stray; the Holy Spirit drowns and resurrects us. Each new day is a new year of the Lord for His people who hear His promise; from their pastors, from God’s people, and from their own fresh engagement with the biblical Word.
Each new day is a new year of the Lord for His people who hear His promise; from their pastors, from God’s people, and from their own fresh engagement with the biblical Word.
Our task is perceiving who we are as newborn, reborn, revitalized, repentant children of God. Too often we listen to Satan’s attempts to undo what God has done each day through our repentance, as He says, “Let there be a new creature, truly a child of mine.” The Deceiver too easily convinces us that such a pronouncement cannot really be true. So, too often we have some vague, altogether too often not very solid feeling we have forgiveness, but the conviction that we are truly righteous new creatures escapes us. Absolution is really true! Forgiveness ends our status as those who are defined by their sinfulness. The struggle Paul describes in Romans 7 goes on, but like him we want to do the good and practice God’s way of living. Despite feeling the body of death in us, we rest on the confidence that through Jesus Christ we belong to our Creator, that we are Christ’s own, and this new day and this new year are secure in Him (Romans 7:7-8:1).
This new year, 2021, is a year that belongs to the Lord. It is going to be a year of the Lord’s favor, a year in which He will display His judgment on those who pursue their own interests. Again, this year He will visit His judgment on those who do not hearken to His Word that gives them the new identity which He gained for us through His death and resurrection. He will come in this year, in these days, with good news for the poor. He is on His way to bind up the brokenhearted. He is proclaiming freedom for captives of every kind, especially those captive to their own selfishness and self-will, their own faithless fears and desperate defensiveness. He will be bringing gladness to replace the mourning and grieving that dominate too many lives as the year begins (Isaiah 61:1-3).
And in the end, He will create a new Heaven and a new Earth. He will abolish the memory of our following false paths to worship false gods. He will banish such things from our minds. He will give us joy in His new creation, and the sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more. There will be no more damage, destruction, disease, defiance, despising of others or self, discouragement, despair or death. The Creator will have made all things new (Isaiah 65:17-25). We live in 2021 in the shadow of the past, from God’s creation of all that is through Jesus’s birth, death, resurrection, to our own day. And we live in the shadow of God’s future, in which we and all will be made permanently new.