By the time you read these words, it will be 2019. You have celebrated the holy days of Christmas and have passed safely into the New Year. At this point, you have more insight than me about 2019, because as I write these words, it is only mid-December. I haven’t even written my Christmas sermon yet!
Even though my writing and your reading puts me at a chronological disadvantage, I still think I might be able to offer you some valuable insights about the New Year (which you have begun and I have not). Will 2019 be a good year? That all depends on the kind of “new” year you’ve started.
The New Testament uses two Greek words for “new.” The first is “neos”. Neos is something that is brand new. January 1, 2019 is a brand new day and in a brand new year. The Bible uses this term for all sorts of things that are brand new: a new vintage of wine, a new batch of dough, or a newborn child (also used to refer to the “younger” child).
While all these things may be new in time, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be new in quality. The wine is made from the same grape vines as previous years and may actually be an inferior harvest. The child is born from the same parents and still has to deal with original sin. So while January 1, 2019 might begin a brand new calendar year, chances are good that we’ll end up experiencing the same old thing. Solomon warns us, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Thankfully, the New Testament uses a second Greek word for “new”. That is, “kainos”. Kainos suggests something that is new in quality. Jesus makes this point when He talks about the coming of His Kingdom, and the Gospel that He brings. He says,
“Neither is new (neos)wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new (neos)wine is put into new(kainos)wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)
These new (kainos) wineskins are of a different quality than the old, brittle wineskins, and thus will not burst when brand new (neos) wine is put into them. What makes the Gospel of Jesus unique, is that it is genuinely new in character, unlike the old, brittle teaching of the Pharisees.
This type of newness can give us great hope for a new year. What we truly desire is not just more of the same, but a life that is renewed and is different in quality. That’s the kind of life only God can give:
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new (kainos)creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new (kainos)has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-8)
Through Christ, you are reconciled to God! The old is gone. Your sin has been paid for and no longer do live in fear of God’s wrath. What’s more, the new has come! Your relationship with the Father has been fully restored, and is now fundamentally different. It is based on the merits of Christ. Because of Jesus, you are holy to God, and wholly belong to His family.
This changes how you might enter into 2019. Certainly you will encounter many of the same celebrations and challenges you’ve faced in the past. Yet, you do so having been made a new creation in Christ. Therefore, you can approach each new (neos) day of our new (neos) year in a brand new (kainos) way:
*Focus on what the Spirit is doing as He works in you through Word and Sacrament. Spiritual renewal produces a harvest of righteousness.
*Take delight that Jesus is including you in His new wineskin ministry. By faith, you can serve in His Kingdom, and be play a part in the renewal that He brings.
*Finally, place your hope fully on the fulfillment of Christ’s work for the world. “Behold, I am making all things new,” is His promise to us. (Revelation 21:5) When He comes again, He will establish “a new heaven and a new earth,” (Revelation 21:1) so that we can delight in Him forever.
So while many people have already wished you a happy New Year, let me be the first to wish you a Happy Renewal this year! In Christ, you truly can anticipate something beautifully new.
And with these words I must now end, for I absolutely do need to start writing that Christmas sermon…