“A Time for New Things”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 (3:11) – January 1, 2023
Today is a fresh new year, a brand new calendar, new experiences each and every day. What bright opportunities are ahead of each of us! Just imagine – today is a time for new things, just as our Scripture reading this morning states.
Today’s Scripture reading from Ecclesiastes talks a great deal about time. All different kinds of time, and lots of ways of marking time, too. “Time feels different to children who have known so little of it. For them years last forever. They are just beginning to sort out the difference between how long a time period feels and the fact that an hour is always 60 minutes long no matter how it feels.” 
Yet, many of us here have seen the passage of time, and many years go by on the calendar. Many people know that days, months and years can slip by oh, so quickly. When a child is 5 or 6 years old, it can seem like forever before the Christmas holiday finally arrives! But, when someone turns 75 or 86 years of age, the Christmases and the holidays seem to come faster and faster. Time surrounds each of us, here in this world, in this place and time.
As we reflect upon this Scripture reading for today, we can also reflect upon what exactly the author of Ecclesiastes meant. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” That can mean we ought to be serious and anxious about each little factor, or each tiny decision each of us makes.
Sure, some can go too far, and have a totally fatalistic point of view of life. That is the way some Bible scholars view the author of Ecclesiastes, who often says that everything is absolutely fated and predetermined. Many scholars view the author of Ecclesiastes as the aged King Solomon, and the writing in Ecclesiastes is mostly jaded, disheartened and questioning. Nothing is worth doing, no innovation, no creativity; no one can change anything ever. What a hopeless, helpless point of view. This view takes away free will, human decision, and the possibility of change. Why do anything, ever again?
But, that way of serious, somber thinking can be really negative. Seconds turn into minutes, hours, days and months. Before we know it, sometimes we can look back at the passage of many days, many existences with sadness and regret.
As we look through this clear choice each of us has on the New Year’s Day, we can certainly wonder about our personal choices. And, these choices sound like this Scripture reading, too. “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.”
We can add “a time to be positive, and a time to be negative, a time to look forward, and a time to look back over our shoulders.” These additions are fully in keeping with the author’s intent, I think. Yet, each of us must think about what each of us is going to do with these words, choices and intentions. Each individual needs to weigh this decision in their own mind. And, what is the Godly decision?
Another way to reflect upon this fresh, new decision is to consider what has happened to each of us in the past twelve months, and find within an eagerness, looking forward to the future. Again, we can view this new year as a new path in the pristine snow, ready for each of us to walk upon. We can track a fresh path where none has been before!
Bible commentator Christine Valters Painter tells us that “the human desire [is] for renewal and new beginnings. St. Benedict in his Rule for monasteries writes ‘always we begin again.’ This impulse is the heart of what makes anticipation of the New Year kindle all of our longings for a richer way of being in the world. There is something so very hopeful to me in this fundamental impulse.” 
Remember, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us repeatedly, we are Christians, together. A congregation is a group of believers gathered together for friendship, fellowship, and most of all, to worship together. We all come together to worship as a group of believers. We all come together to find commonality in this renewal and new beginning each January 1st. And, we all can find comfort, camaraderie and fellowship in the common coming-together as a family of faith.
Yes, this new calendar page is an opportunity to begin again as individuals. Plus, January 1st is another opportunity to come together as a congregation and find a more hopeful, a richer way of being in the world.
Just as the concept of time is foundational to each one of us, with this concentration of time so central, so this Scripture reading tells us that God has set eternity in humanity’s heart. Verses 11 and 12: “yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.”
What a sentiment! And, what a wonderful way to decide to look at life. As we all begin again this first day of 2023, let us listen to the writer of Ecclesiastes. God has set a foundational sense of time in our human hearts, and God has set for us a task. There is nothing better for us than to be happy and to do good while we live. God has given us this precious gift: a God-given gift of time, and a God-given gift of being happy.
So go – do that. Be well, and be happy.