Summary: God gives us opportunities for new choices in the new year,sustains us in circumstances, and promises never to change.
It isn’t very often that New Year’s day falls on a Sunday. It is significant that we start out the new year in church. There is no better place to face the new year than in church. With all due respect for those who like to greet the new year with lavish parties, frolicking get-togethers and celebrating occasions, I would rather greet the new year in church. With this in mind many churches have what is known as Watch Night services so the worshippers can greet the new year in the setting of the friendly confines of the church. That has not been the tradition at this church. But now we have an opportunity to celebrate the new year in church. Many of us face the new year with mixed emotions. For some of us 2005 might not have been a very good year. And so we might want to breathe a sigh of relief and say, “I’m glad that’s over.” Others of us may be glad to see the new year, yet we are still burdened with stuff left over from the old year. All of our problems do not magically disappear once we turn the calendar from 2005 to 2006. The same old problems and issues that surrounded us in the old year are still with us in the new year. Yet symbolically at least, there is something exciting and thrilling about entering into a new year. It is time for new resolutions, new hopes, new challenges, new paths, and new beginnings. No matter how we feel about entering a new year, here we are ready or not. Even though the year 2005 was extended for a second by the scientific world, here we are in a brand new spanking 2006. Time stood still for one second last night. But here we are ready or not in a brand new year.
We are in somewhat of a similar situation that was facing the people of Israel in our text for today found in Joshua 3. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness the people of Israel are finally ready to cross the Jordan into the promised land. This is a new generation of people. Their parents had been struck dead in the wilderness for their sin of unbelief. Only Joshua and Caleb remain of that band of oppressed people who fled the fleshpots of Egypt over 40 years ago. Now Joshua their new leader gives them instructions as they are about to cross Jordan’s chilly stream into the promised land. He tells them to keep their eyes on the ark of the covenant which will be carried by the priests. The ark was that box made of acacia wood covered with a lid of solid gold called the mercy seat. The ark was a box which contained the tables of stone, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. The ark was a box with the cherubim on each side of the mercy seat, over which God himself said that He would dwell. When the people saw the priests moving that box, they were to follow as Joshua said in verse 4, “since they had not been this way before.” They had not been this way before. This was a new experience for them. They were cutting a path through virgin territory. This was uncharted land for them. This is a great challenge facing them. They have not been this way before.
Today we have just passed over the banks of the Jordan of 2005 into the Canaan land of 2006. We have never been this way before. Just as that weary group of Israelites way back there were about to pass over the threshold of a new experience and dimension of their existence, even so have we crossed over into the challenges and uncertainties of a new year. We have not been this way before. No matter how old you are, no matter how much experience or wisdom you may have, no one has ever lived in 2006 before. We have never been this way before. What do we do now that we have passed from 2005 to 2006?
The first thing we do is to seek new choices. Do something different in 2006 or do some things in a different way. The harsh reality is that some of us as we get older become set in our ways. We become victims of dull repetitious sameness. The old expression “familiarity breeds contempt” becomes all too true in our lives. We find ourselves saying, “been there, done that.” When we were younger it wasn’t like that. I dare say that there are younger people here are looking forward to 2006. Maybe some youngster here is thinking of learning to drive a car in 2006. Maybe some girl is saying that at long last my parents are going to let me date. They are looking forward to that date with that dream guy in school. Some may be looking forward to graduating from high school this year. Some may be looking forward to entering college and perhaps moving away from the friendly confines of home. Indeed they will not have been that way before. Others may be just thinking about being promoted to the next grade. When you are young a lot of exciting things are happening to us. Some of them may be scary, but they are exciting too. The challenges of youth are many. But no one can deny the thrill and the excitement of growing up, of become aware of who we are, and going through the various stages of life. Each year becomes a new opportunity, a new challenge. We just can’t wait until we become an adult. Some here may be getting married this year. Then in young adulthood we may be excited about buying our first house, getting or advancing on the job, and watching the children grow up.