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Homily for New Year's Eve

What Time is It?

Readings: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21:1-6a; Matthew 25:31-48

One warm summer night up at the cottage I went out into our field, put a blanket down and lay there looking up at the sky. I found myself surrounded by a heavenly host of stars. It almost took my breath away. I realized how small I am and how immense the universe that God has created. It made me wonder whether God even notices us on this tiny speck of dust called earth off to one side of the cosmos. That is when I found myself singing How Great Thou Art. Consider the words for a moment. “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hands have made. I see the stars … it goes on, speaking of the awesomeness of God's creation. I was overcome by the sense of timelessness in God’s realm. It goes so contrary to our human obsession with time.

If you do not believe that we are obsessed with time, consider the ways we reflect on it.
• I have some time coming to me.
• I had a great time.
• Take your time.
• We need to save some time.
• Don’t waste your time.
• A stitch in time.
• Time waits for no one.
• Time is money.
• Time heals all wounds.
• Time is on my side.
• There is no time like the present.
And my favourite quote about time, “Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

Even Scripture is obsessed with time. There are over six hundred references to time in the Bible. The Old Testament reading for tonight is a poetic reflection on time. Some of us know it as a song from the sixties. The writer of Ecclesiastes, while he has a cynical view of the world, is still able as he reflects on time to give us insights that connect us to that awesome and almighty God whom we seek in worship. He relates the events of God and contrasts them with our human situation. God's world is timeless. That goes against all reason for humans who are ruled by time. So he tells us to enjoy whatever time comes to us as a gift of God.

He explains that there are some times over which we have no control, for they control us. The time to plant, the time to gather, the time of birth, and the time of death are all times and events controlled by God. However, there are some events over which we do have a measure of control. The time to love, the time to hate, the time for war, the time for peace, such times are somewhat within our control. But we cannot be sure, the writer suggests, because we live within a framework, which is dependent on time while God lives within a framework of timelessness.

It is natural as we come to the close of the year and the beginning of a new one that we should reflect on time. “Where has the time gone?” we ask ourselves. “What have I accomplished this year?” These ponderings on time hopefully lead us on a journey of discovery of who God is and what God means in our lives. They lead us to meditate, not only on the place of time in our lives, but also on our place in time and history. As Christians, we see such reflections as part of the nature of God's saving grace through Christ. We know that we are in the hands of a loving God who cares for us.

That brings us to our New Year’s resolutions. Most of us, I am sure, resolve to live our lives in healthier and better ways. We resolve to diet and to exercise. Those are good resolutions to make. They are good resolutions to keep. I hope that all of us have good goals in mind for this New Year. But I hope we do not stop there. I hope too that the end of the year gives us reason to reflect on all of God’s blessings, on all that God has given to us. I hope it is a time to resolve to be better people, to live our lives more faithfully and more prayerfully, a time to let go of our past mistakes, to ask God’s forgiveness and to move on knowing that God is with us.

A lovely poem was sent to me earlier today. It was quoted during King George’s message in 1939 when war was looming and England’s future looked bleak.

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
"Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied, "Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!"

It is a good reminder for us as we enter a new year. It is the message of the gospel as it reminds us about where we can find God. We will find God in the hungry and thirsty. We will find God in the smelly and unlovely, in the grubby and the sick. We will find God as we search out those in need. We will find God in the body of Christ. We will find God in one another. May that be our resolution this year!
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