The New Year always seems to bring a fresh start. We make New Year's resolutions (reports say more than 80 percent of all American adults make such resolutions); we write on a fresh calendar; we make plans; and we focus on the future. While there is nothing magical about the flip of the calendar to a new year - especially with electronic calendars that don't actually flip a page - this time of year seems to invite us to make a fresh start.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about such fresh starts. The Good News is that our past sins and failures are forgiven, and a new life in Christ is possible for us.
Years ago I saw a play done by a youth group in which God was portrayed as One who had a bad memory. People on the stage kept talking about and worrying about their past mistakes and their regrets, and yet when they finally prayed to God about those worries and regrets, God would respond "I don't remember that." It was an odd play, but it made an important point. From God's perspective as best we can understand it, God's forgiveness of our past is so complete that God does not even remember our forgiven sins.
In fact, the Letter to the Hebrews, reflecting Exodus 25:40 and Jeremiah 31:34, says it this way:
"The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
- Hebrews 10:8-12
In Christ that time has come, and that New Covenant has been revealed. God is indeed a God who forgives, forgets and offers us a fresh start.
May this New Year be a time when we accept this gift of a fresh start, and may it also be a time when we offer that gift to one another. It is a time to let go of old hurts, regrets and pains. It is a time to forgive and forget. It is a time to accept the fresh start we have in Jesus Christ.
May it be so in 2008.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church
"Making a Difference in Indiana and around the world"