Read Romans 8:18-25
“The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.”Romans 8:19 MSG
Nearly any time I used to speak with my grandmother, she had something to say about time.
“Oh, my, can you believe it’s already almost January?” she might say. “Before you know it, January will be gone and then it’ll be Easter and soon, we’ll have corn growing again!” If I let her go on long enough, we might make it through the full calendar year before she’d stop and laugh. “Where do the days go?”
I loved this quirk about my grandma. It delighted me the way she could accelerate time, speed through the winter doldrums straight to spring, anticipating new growth and a fresh harvest only a couple of otherwise long months away.
Time is relative. It truly does seem to fly when you’re in your eighties—a day is so short compared to the accumulation of thousands of days prior. For the young, however, time moves slowly. A whole month feels like forever, simply because you’ve only lived through a handful of months already.
The months and weeks and days leading up to Christmas for my children is a world of giddy anticipation. Will the day ever arrive?! And yet for me, time passed swiftly. There was never enough of it, so much of it occupied. Hurry up! Hurry up! My kids told the calendar. Slow down, slow down, I whispered in reply.
On the days between Christmas and New Year, time seems to stand still, finally, after the rush and race to prepare for that great holiday. As we shake the glitter out of blankets and pick up stray pieces of tinsel and ribbon, we begin to adjust our lenses so we can focus on what comes next.
The trials and challenges of the last three years have left many in despair. It’s so easy to get sucked into the cycle of crisis, anxiety, helplessness, and exhaustion—just flick on the news or pick up a paper, and it’s there—anger, fear, and depression haunting every headline.
Maybe 2023 will be the fresh start we all need. But time is culture’s construct, established to mark the hours and days. Our attitudes about the future don’t automatically change when we open a new desk calendar.
But we can choose to have hope as the calendar turns.
One of the glories of the Jesus story is the now and not yet nature of salvation and redemption. The freedom and love of Christ is available to us right now, right here, in the present darkness and despair, and it is coming to fruition for all of creation. All of creation groans as in childbirth, Paul writes in Romans 8:22. Don’t mistake the language; those groans are full of joyful anticipation, hopeful expectancy. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next!
As followers of Christ, we have this hope of restoration. “I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times,” Paul writes. I want to live with that same hope.
We can be active participants, midwives of what God is doing next. We can look toward the horizon of this next year with joyful anticipation, not rushing away the days, but treasuring them, viewing them as necessary to prepare for what comes next. Yes, there will be cold. Yes, there will be pain. Yes, there will be brokenness. But look, there, just beyond—rows of bright green, waiting to be made complete, readying themselves for the harvest.
Now, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Now, and in the days, and weeks, and years to come.
Points of Reflection
- Here on the edge of a new year, are you filled with hope or dread?
- If the kingdom of heaven is here and not yet, what ways has Jesus invited you to participate in preparing this world for that great and glorious day?
For the Kids
- What are you looking forward to in 2023?
It’s a common practice to make resolutions for the new year, or to choose a word to shape or define the coming year. This year, as part of that practice, ask the Lord to inspire hope in an area you otherwise feel hopeless. What is it you hope will happen, this year or beyond? And out of that hope, what action can you take to try to advance that hope and be an active participant in its fulfillment? Write it down and tuck that prayer away until the end of the coming year—perhaps you will see amazing things unfold as a result of your hope.
ReadingsI recently heard Christiana Rice speak about the metaphor of the midwife and how it relates to our involvement in our local community. Her book, To Alter Your World: Partnering with God to Rebirth Our Communities, co-written by Michael Frost, explores this metaphor even more. We are “God’s birthing attendants as the kingdom comes to earth as it is in heaven.” God is doing the work to birth into existence the new creation; we’re invited to join into the experience and its related blessings.