January's Promise

Featuring John Chisum Posted on April 10, 2008

I love January. I start looking forward to it by the middle of December even before we’ve all finished with trees, shopping, gift-giving, turkey and dressing, and pecan pie. For as much as I love celebrating Christ’s birth in December, there’s something exciting to me about starting out clean, starting out new again in January. It may sound a little silly, but it’s easy for me to imagine a giant cosmic clock that strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve and then we all get to start over a minute later! January just feels fresh to me, even if the warmer breezes of spring are still three or four months away and a bit of snow is still lingering on the ground outside. I seem to have some of my most creative writing days in January. I don’t think that it’s just because my birthday is in January (hint-hint!), though the annual reminder of my mortality does make me want to be as productive as possible in this New Year until the next one rolls around. January seems to remind me that God loves newness and new things, too.

The psalmist celebrated the new song God had put in his mouth (Psalm 40:3). Isaiah prophesied “a new heaven and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17). Jeremiah told of the “new covenant” God would make (Jeremiah 31:31) and Jesus Himself inaugurated God’s new covenant with us in the cup of His shed blood (Luke 22:20). The Apostle Paul carried this theme of newness into almost everything that he wrote and newness is especially evident in texts such as 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” God, in His eternal changelessness, delights in doing new things!

The seasons of the year are themselves reminders of God’s character, nature, and attributes, just as all of nature glorifies Him by revealing His unceasing creativity. Though He is without the tiniest “shadow of turning” (James 1:17)), each season reveals new dimensions of His ineffable nature, as if He doles out to us just what we are able to take in of Who and What He is as the awesome Creator. The natural evidences of God in His creation are delightful to us, if we’ll just pay the slightest attention to His splendid displays of sunrise, sunset, the ebb and flow of the great oceans, sun, moon, stars, and the four quarters of winter, spring, summer, and fall. Though January is still deeply embedded in winter, its promise reaches down to the taproots of nature itself and even to the deepest places of our humanity – we can almost smell newness beneath the frozen earth if we try – we can sense somehow that the treacherous beauty of winter will once again give way to the warmth and new birth of spring. January is a turning toward spring, a change of step that leads from one thing to another. January is a promise of the newness that we long for in our hearts.

Of all the months, worship may be most like January. Worship is a turning of our hearts from the staleness of our own seasons to God’s ever-springing presence. Worship is the turning of our steps from the worn paths of our sins, depression, and disease into His forgiveness, grace, and endless joy. Worship lifts our hearts from the circumstances we face to His beautiful face, the face of the Father who loves us. The promise of worship is the promise of winter’s change – January’s promise – a change from glory to glory. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” writes Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:17- 18.

Sometimes winter seems to drag on, even with all the newness of my January. I remember one of my employees walking into my office one winter day and, after noticing the depressed look on my face said, “Chisum! Get a sun lamp!” On days like that I need most to recall the words of Isaiah 43:18 – 21 (KJV) “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.” We can “shew forth” God’s praise in every season, of course, but it seems to me that He delights in giving us new reasons in every season to praise Him! As you begin this New Year, open your heart to the newness of God’s covenant with you – purpose in your heart to live deeper in His word, deeper into His promises to you in Jesus Christ, the promise of something new, something fresh – January’s promise. And, by the way, my birthday’s on the 14th.