As another new year begins, and an old one is laid to rest, I'm thankful for the way the gospel affects my perception of time. It strikes me as one of the most fundamentally human things to do, this marking the passage of time, but as a purely human activity it tends towards morbidity or naivety. Each time the new year rolls around, it's a reminder that we have a finite number of these - and we don't know what the number will be. On the other hand, each new year provides us with another opportunity to con ourselves into believing that this year the world will be different, and we will be different - this will be the year!
But the gospel changes both. On the one hand, the gospel gives me reason to believe that this whole process of drawing a line under the old year is not completely arbitrary. Again, it's a fundamentally human thing to do, this dividing time into sections. Sometimes those sections are dictated by the physical or cultural world around us - the round of seasons, the national holidays. Sometimes they are decided in retrospect, in the way we tell our life stories, when a particular period seems to us to have a particular significance. But in one sense it is all arbitrary; time flows on irrespective of how we mentally chop it up. Nothing perceptibly changes when the clock strikes midnight. Except that the gospel gives me a framework that makes this division sensible rather than just necessary. The gospel story tells me that in Jesus time has fundamentally changed; the old has gone and the new has come. The great turning has already happened in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. And so there is something very sensible about drawing a line under 2015. It has slipped into the past, and because of the death of Jesus can be sensibly considered to be really past - closed, tied off, complete.
On the other hand, looking forward, I don't need naive optimism. I know that this year will hold many hard things. I know that I will not be the person I ought to be or want to be in the next twelve months. I know this. But I also know that this coming year is not totally formless. It isn't a blank slate. The resurrection of Jesus tells me that this coming year is already full - full of him who fills everything in every way. Neither events on the world stage nor surprises in my personal life will happen without him. And there is therefore room for realistic hope. Everything has turned in Christ from old to new, and therefore everything will turn from old to new.
And every new year is a year closer to the time when he will be all in all.