There is a blustery uneasiness about this new year. As midnight approached last night the weather behaved oddly. After two months of subzero temperatures, with snow falls producing a beautiful, if chilly winter, the temperature rose unexplainably yesterday from minus 7 to plus 3, a strangely warm wind blew in from the south, and rain squalls swept across the county. In a few hours the squeaky, fluffy snow of recent weeks began to transform to the slush that usually appears in early spring, around mid March. This morning, with gusty winds still buffeting the neighbourhood, the trees, which yesterday morning were laden with snow, have been washed clean, losing their winter magic, taking on instead a drab tiredness which reflects my mood as I enter the new year.
Meanwhile a leading article on the BBC website speaks of flooding of “biblical proportions” in Queensland, Australia, a subject which barely rates a mention on the Sydney Morning Herald website, which is much too preoccupied with more important issues like football, cricket and political scandals. Its a new year, and life goes on as usual, the newspapers reflecting the preoccupations and neuroses of our current generation, as we humans struggle to relate to each other, to take care of (or exploit) the world we have been given, and to comprehend and understand what we see going on around us.
In my email inbox is a Bible reading from Isaiah 43: “Forget what happened long ago! Don’t think about the past. I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it?” God speaks to his people, the Israelites, through his prophet, Isaiah. I find myself wondering what new thing God is doing. The passage goes on to describe God’s sadness and pain at the failure of his chosen people to take any notice of him, despite all the efforts he has gone to on their behalf. I am reminded how easy it is to forget God, even for those of us who are believers, how easy it is to take Him for granted. I realize how many things distract me from the Creator. How little of my time or devotion He receives.
He says then, “But I wipe away your sins because of who I am. And so, I will forget the wrongs you have done.” God gives me, and us, a second chance, an opportunity to live differently. But what does it mean, to give God first place in my life, to let His words and thoughts and values guide my life and decisions instead of my own desires and fears and self-obsession?
The windy change of the night has not just blown away the snow from tree branches, but even the dark clouds that spat rain from the night sky as we shot off our rockets at midnight to welcome in the new year. The sky is bright blue today, and the clouds are high and wispy. The temperature has slipped again below zero, and Spring is once again pushed away from our minds as winter reasserts its grip. But I have had a reminder that change is coming, that God is a Creator who has not stopped His involvement in my life, or the life of this world, whatever this world’s scientific rationalism might say to the contrary.
“I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it?”