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By now if you are connected by email to the internet you will have received at least five Happy New Year greeting cards.
That's not counting all the personal greetings if you were with other people last night. So can you stand it if you hear once again, Happy New Year! ?

I hope you have a happy New Year.
You might think, well if I do, it's about time.
Which is an interesting phrase. Not the Happy New Year, but the "it's about time".
I suppose Happy New Year is interesting, too, but it's pretty straight forward.
The writer of Ecclesiastes had an interesting take on time and the seasons of life. We know it well:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance...

That is a passage that I find very . . .

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven: 
Ecclesiastes 3:1

By now if you are connected by email to the internet you will have received at least five Happy New Year greeting cards.
That's not counting all the personal greetings if you were with other people last night. So can you stand it if you hear once again, Happy New Year! ?

I hope you have a happy New Year.
You might think, well if I do, it's about time.
Which is an interesting phrase. Not the Happy New Year, but the "it's about time".
I suppose Happy New Year is interesting, too, but it's pretty straight forward.
The writer of Ecclesiastes had an interesting take on time and the seasons of life. We know it well:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance...

That is a passage that I find very reassuring in a simple sort of way.
It is not any kind of guarantee or promise.
It is an observation on the way life generally works, and is meant to guard against excessive pride or excessive pessimism.

For example, I believe that one of God's good gifts is what we call the "law of averages" or if you remember your high school mathematics, the Bell Curve.
The Bell Curve or the law of averages says that in large numbers of anything there will be only a minimum of anything at the extremes and most will fall somewhere in the middle.
There are times I find that very comforting.
I find it comforting when I feel particularly vulnerable.

When I was a single parent, I had a tendency to be a bit preoccupied about the welfare of my girls.
I can recall on more than one occasion awaking in the night and one or the other would not be home yet. They were both young adults and capable of looking after themselves, but I was a preoccupied dad.
There, alone in the house in the dark of night, I could imagine all manner of evil befalling them.
And as the clock ticked, I became more and more certain that in fact, it had.
One thing that helped me keep my sanity was the law of averages.
I would ask myself, "how many teen age and young adults are out tonight in Victoria?"
The answer of course is "lots"
"How many are likely to be drugged and kidnapped and sold in some Middle Eastern Bazaar?"
The answer is "not many"
So then, on this particular occasion, you should probably go back to sleep and stop worrying.

In our sense of vulnerability we often wonder if we are due for something really bad to happen to us.
Or I suppose in our pride we might think that God and life owe us a fabulous year ahead.
Ecclesiastes is saying, "that's not how it works."
He is saying, into every life a little rain must fall, and sufficient sunshine to make the flowers bloom.
Jesus puts it this way: He says that God sends the rain and sunshine on the just and the unjust alike.
For every experience, there is a season. You cannot predict to whom or even necessarily understand the "why".
That's just the way life is.

God is not standing over you waiting to pull the rug out from under you, though that is how people in this time likely thought.
They believed that if something bad happened, God did it to me.
If on the other hand, something good happened, it is because God is pleased with me.
Our Calvinistic forebears would most likely have expected suffering and if something good happened would have looked over their shoulders for the chastening hand of God.

But the writer of Ecclesiastes steers us away from assuming both gloom and doom as well as a view of life that is all sunshine and roses.

What will your and my New Year look like?
The rational part of our brain tells us that we cannot predict that in detail.
But I like an interpretation of Exodus 3:14 where God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush.
Moses asks God's name. "Who shall I say sent me?"
God replies "I am who I am. Tell them 'I Am' sent me"
One way the words we interpret as "I Am" can be phrased is also, "I will be", or "I will be there."
In fact God says exactly that to Moses, "I will be there with you."

And to me that is the best news for New Years.
I can say, Happy New Year and mean it sincerely.
But I know what Ecclesiastes says is true...to everything is a season. Into every life comes sunshine and rain, but who knows when?
Best of all, however, and I can say this with total confidence:
God will be there with you in it.
And in addition, whatever it is you go through, I can say with total confidence: put your confidence in the love of God. He will never let you down or turn His back on you.

Into every life some rain will fall.
To everything there is a season.
But God is the creator of time and eternity and has you safely in the palm of His hand.
So rest securely in Him and be at peace.
 For some of us, its about time.


Preached  January 1, 2006
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia
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