There are plenty of things to fear on the threshold of a new year. We have fears about a child now a teenager, an old health problem flaring up, a savings account dwindling, or a marriage that is on the rocks. A new year reminds some of us of our mortality, that there are more new years and new decades behind us than in front of us. Still others of us recall loved ones whose hands we won’t be holding this New Year’s Eve. Far from being a time of excitement and hope, a new year may be a terrible reminder of everything that has or might go wrong. Does the gospel have a word to offer us who are confronted now by so many fears?
When God raised Jesus from the dead he opened up a new and good future to us. In the resurrection we have proof that God is still at work in the world and that he will see all things through to his desired end for them. This means a few things. One, it means that the hardships of this life and the things we fear will not have the last word in our lives or in our world—God will. And it also means that God is still at work in the world now, opening up new and good endings for all his creatures, including each of us.
To be sure, there are no guarantees that hardships or even death won’t meet us in the year to come. The resurrection does not promise us that life will be a bed of roses. Instead, the gospel proclaims to us that whatever difficult or truly terrible thing might come our way, it will not be the final word for us. In the end, God will win, and he will see to it that his purposes come to pass. The gospel also means that in a new year we can expect the unexpected, that is, that we can learn not to count God out of our stories, but to anticipate that he will show up and work in them even if we do not know exactly how.
In a few days we will step into a new year together, and, if we’re honest with ourselves, we bring with us many old fears. At a time like this, the gospel reminds us that although the future is unknown, it is not uncertain. God has guaranteed how the story will end, and in the meantime he promises to be with us in our stories. If all of this is so, then a new year does not have to be defined by fear, worry, and doubt. Rather, a new year can be defined by hope as we have confidence that God is sovereign over all things and that he will show up in our lives in new and good ways in the year to come.