Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden for Unsplash.

The start of a new year brings endless possibilities for businesses to pedal this message to us, promising that the simple turn of a calendar page can erase all that has been and usher in all that we imagine for ourselves, be it health, wealth, achievements, you name it. While I love the sentiment of grasping possibility and heading enthusiastically into the future, I don’t like the suggestion that the past should be tossed, as if it was nothing more than a box of holiday treats that have gone stale sitting on the kitchen counter. New Year’s messages reek of “don’t look back” subtext, and that’s unfortunate because you can’t appreciate the new without looking back.

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Reflecting on the past is part of what makes Christmas so poignant for Christians. Jesus’ birth did make everything new. It marked a new year. It marked a new life for everyone who had been waiting and wondering if the promise of a Messiah was true. But Jesus’ arrival did not mean that people threw out memories of the past as quickly as they could. Instead, remembering the past was part of what made the birth so powerful. They remembered the past with honesty, recognizing how grim and dark things had been for so long. They remembered the broken relationships, dashed dreams, bleak political situation and senseless violence. They remembered how desperate they were for hope. And then they remembered the promise of a light shining in the darkness and the depths of their gratitude only grew when they recognized that the Christ child had been born into such a dark world. 

The promise of newness was not a promise to override all that had been — a light beaming so bright that darkness and memories of past darkness, would cease to exist. The promise of newness was and is a promise that even in the dark, light can break through.

Instead of embracing “New year. New you,” what if we embraced “New year. New light”? What if we started this year with confidence that we don’t have to discard our past to receive new hope and new possibility? What if we reflected honestly on the things that make us want to abandon the past so we’re capable of recognizing newness when it comes instead of trying to manufacture a future without memory? What if we resolved to face the darkness of our lives and our world expecting to see light no matter how faint the glimmer? Light shines in the darkness. If we begin this year trusting that light will arrive to even the darkest places of our lives, then I imagine we’ ll find newness that can’t be bought with a gym membership, a beauty regimen, a technological gadget or a meal plan.

New year. New light. The light shines in the darkness if only we have eyes to behold it. It’s a happy New Year, indeed!