New Year's Eve
December 31, 2009
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
You might think it strange to hear this passage on a New Year's Eve. Ecclesiastes isn't the most upbeat book of the Bible. Solomon's voice and tone here are less than bubbly... downright depressing, really. “All is vanity” he preaches. Everything is pointless. And it's all been done before. There is nothing new under the sun. Nothing he hasn't seen or heard. Even he, Solomon, with all his great wisdom, is not impressed by anything. If anything, he's become jaded about this world and what it has to offer. It's the same old, same old, same old. Nothing changes. It's always the same.
He talks about all the pleasures he has sought and experienced, and how they leave him empty. Self-indulgence, Hard work, gold and silver, gardens, wealth and honor, slaves, a full stomach, wine, women and song. None of it held meaning for him, this old king looking back on his life.
Tonight we look back on another year of our lives. And we may find some milestones and events to remember. For good or bad, much has happened in this last circle around the sun. Maybe you've lost a job, or gotten a new one. Maybe you've fallen in love, or seen a relationship fall apart. Have you seen the birth of a child or the death of a loved one? Had health problems, faith problems, or some other problems worth remembering or forgetting? It's only natural as we turn the calendar to take stock of the past year and what it's meant.
Solomon, at the end of many years, offers a word of wisdom: it all means nothing. It's all vanity. Emptiness. Pointless.
What does he mean? Perhaps that in the grand scheme of things, there is nothing much different about his life than your life, or anyone's life here on earth. There is nothing new under the sun. It's always the same.
We are conceived and born in sin. We grow up, eat and drink and marry and work. We live our lives for the pleasures we can find, but none of it satisfies us, ultimately. It's all corrupted by sin. It's all shy of perfect, less than fulfilling.
Sure, you might have those “snapshot moments” in life. A time of great joy you try to remember, and maybe by rehearsing it – burn it into your brain. But even those moments are bittersweet – for they don't last. Soon it's on to the next grief and trouble of life. Life in this world, viewed honestly, is really pointless.
Unless. Unless there is more...
As depressing as Solomon's wisdom is in Ecclesiastes, he gives us some hope. He also says, “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.”
Through all his moaning and groaning about the futility of this life, Solomon still sees there is more on the horizon. He knows there is something deeper that God has planned. Hints and glimmers of the hidden wisdom of God poking through the clouds of a gloomy day-to-day existence.
There is nothing new under the sun.... for us, from us. But from God there is something new, different, and worth our attention. Something that does last forever. There is news – good news – from God. And it begins with a child born unto us in Bethlehem.
Jesus Christ is the only antidote to the vanity of this life. He is something new under the sun. A human being who can perfectly fulfill the law. A sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The one who lays down his life for his friends, even for his enemies. He is something totally other, totally different, totally new, and entirely not of this world.
For he is not under the sun, but as Lord of creation he sits over it. He is the one who gives light to light. He is the one who gives new life to the dead. He is the one who makes the Old Adam the New Adam. He makes us a New Creation. “Behold” he says, “I make all things new!” For at his second coming he do away with this corrupted creation, and bring forth new heaven and earth. And his redeemed people there will sing him a new song!
In Jesus Christ, God is always working for renewal. In our baptism we have the washing of rebirth and renewal. In the Lord's Supper we receive forgiveness, new life and salvation.
And though what he brings us is good news, he never changes. He's the same yesterday, today and forever. And all the while the story never changes. The sermon is always the same. You are always a sinner, and Christ is always the Savior from sin by his death on the cross. But that message is always news to me and you.
Whatever your year has been like, whatever sorrows or joys it has seen, however you will remember 2009 (or maybe you'd like to just forget it). As we look forward to 2010 and beyond, we rejoice in the good news of Jesus Christ, who brings meaning and hope and promises untold to the vanity of this life. Keep your eyes on the horizon, and keep your faith and trust in him. Amen.