As Christmas lights come down the darkness and quiet of winter settles upon us in ways which can be simultaneously peaceful and unnerving. A more usual rhythm of life returns as the holiday season comes to an end and the new year begins. If you’re anything like me I often barrel into the new year, rather than taking time to enter prayerfully or reflectively, despite my best laid plans. This leaves me asking: How are we to embrace a "new beginning?"

As we enter a new year, many will surely embrace this fresh start as a time to set goals to accomplish through their own effort and discipline. While this is not a bad thing, the Bible offers a different vision. An episode in the story of Israel may serve as a reminder of how the Christian is to embrace all things, even the turning of a year, as a gift from God. 

In Deuteronomy 8, God speaks to His people rearticulating His promise to give them a land of fountains, wheat, fig trees and abundant bread which will be utterly different (and so much better) than the wilderness where they wander. God anticipates, however, that this newness in its abundance will so please the people, so lift their hearts, that they will forget the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, led them through the terrifying wilderness, and who fed them with manna (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). This temptation to forgetfulness is to be avoided by remembrance as a discipline, even before they embrace the new life in the land.The people of Israel are commanded to remember the way the Lord has led them, humbled them, tested them, and provided for them.

The entrance into the promised land, with all its abundance, signals the dissolution of their time in the wilderness and the external dependence they experienced. However, God is clear as they look ahead to life in such a land, they are to remember what they have seen and received in the wilderness that they may embrace this new beginning as a gift from His hand (Deuteronomy 8: 7-10). Without such remembrance, the Lord warns, the people will give themselves credit for obtaining such abundance and forget their dependence on God, thus disobeying Him and denying His lordship (Deuteronomy 8: 17-20). 

The turning of the year is not the same as entering the promised land, but it does represent a collective “new beginning” in which our hopes, fears, and longings come to the forefront of our minds. In meditating on the people of Israel and God’s word to them, we learn what it means to approach newness, even one as mundane as a new year, with prayerful remembrance.  

Like the people of Israel, we are invited to embrace newness with remembrance, not solely on God’s activity with us in the past year but on His works throughout the pages of Scripture. Only as we prayerfully remember His gracious work are we able to look ahead with hope, trust and our eyes fixed upon the giver of all new beginnings and sustainer of all things.