Great Is Thy Faithfulness…in 2016 and Beyond

“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease”  (Genesis 8:22).

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We’ve done it. Yet again, we’ve made one more trip around the sun. Millions of people are, as I type this, celebrating with friends and family in a variety of ways; some are at clubs with food and wine, others are in private homes with board and card games, and some are even at the odd church that may still hold a Watch Night Service, praying in the New Year. Outside my window someone has just set off fireworks. Some folks are glad to see 2016 fade into history, hoping for a better trip this time around; others look back and say, “Not bad…not bad at all.” Balls will drop, Auld Lang Syne will be sung and kisses will be exchanged; people will drive home either very carefully or carelessly, depending on the amount of alcohol they have drunk, and hopefully, tomorrow morning, there will be few or no reports of injuries as a result of too much revelry. Regardless of anything that happens tonight, tomorrow will go on, much as today has and much as yesterday did, as the days, weeks, months, years did before them…

But for us, a new calendar is exciting. Unlike my cat, who is so very present in the now (Now I want petted, Now I want food, Now I want your side of the bed) and, to my knowledge, has no recognition of the passage of time or of the differentiation between years, people have, for all recorded history, marked time.  Before calendars, we watched the weather patterns and ordered our lives around the changing of seasons, each solstice and equinox celebrated with great joy and festivities.  Different developments of marking time are still present; religious communities follow a yearly pattern, as do societies, and the celebration of the New Year is, at least in the western world, one of the most significant.  Somehow, the turning of the metaphorical page from one year to the next gives us hope of forgetting what has been painful, and whets our appetite for better things to come.  Reflecting on the last 12 months inspires many of us to make grand resolutions for self-improvement and, even those grand intentions have gone completely flat by January 31, the very act of making them indicates their importance to us as a people.

Does God mark the New Year?  God, as I understand Him, stands outside of time, being omnipresent, present in our past, present, and future simultaneously, able to behold the end from the beginning and all points in between.  Fortunately for you, I am not going to try to explain that particular phenomenon; some things are best left a mystery.  I do know that God understands time, and recognizes its importance to us.  I was reading the story of Noah earlier this week, and God’s promise in Genesis 8:22 jumped out at me: no matter how crazy things get, the world will keep turning.  The sun will set, the sun will rise, there will be evening. and morning, and another day…

I’ve been amazed at how many people have posted on social media how they just can’t wait for 2016 to be over: multiple celebrity deaths, a chaotic and difficult U.S. presidential race, catastrophe and calamity, poor decision, poor outcomes, yada yada yada…but the world will keep turning.  Nothing about changing a digit on the year designation is going to alter the normal procession of life.  Babies will be born, people will die, nations will rise and fall…but day and night will not cease.  Until God deigns it so, the world will not end, and I take great comfort in that.

For me, 2016 was fantastic – maybe tomorrow I’ll reflect on all of the wonderful things God did in my life. When I wake up in the morning, God will not have mysteriously disappeared, taking all His blessings with Him. No, I will wake up as I always do, still safely tucked under my Father’s wings and hearing Him sing over me.  Because as long as the earth is, and as long as I have breath, He will remain faithful.

I can’t think of a better way to bid farewell to 2016 and welcome 2017 than by singing the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (Thomas Chisholm, William Runyan):

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with thee.

Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; as thou has been thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Summer and winter and seedtime and harvest, sun, moon and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth; thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow; blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

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