Happy New Year! January 1st marked the beginning of a new year–2018. But for there to be a new year, an old one, 2017, had to end. We said good-bye, and possibly good riddance, to 2017, but we welcomed 2018 with open arms. Baby New Year knocked, and we raced to throw open the door and admit him. 2017 was tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage in our rush to grab a fresh start. The end and yet a beginning faces us.
Beginnings and endings may be opposite, but they are inextricably linked. If one considers beginnings in the cold sober light of day (as opposed to the delirium and likely intoxication of New Year’s festivities), only one conclusion is reasonable. Beginnings aren’t possible without something ending.
This thinking isn’t rocket science. I mean, can you name any beginning that isn’t preceded by an ending? A baby is born; a pregnancy has ended. A child graduates; her formal educational period has ended. A couple gets married; their days as singles are over. A worker retires and begins a life of leisure; his work days have ended. A meal is served; food preparation is completed. The sun rises to signal a new day; the night has passed.
Not only does an ending inevitably precede a beginning, but an ending doesn’t simply go away; it impacts the beginning. A beginning is built on what has ended. If a marriage ends in divorce, an ex-spouse may enter the world with a bad taste for romance and a cynical view of the opposite sex. The beginning of single life and any new romantic encounters will undoubtedly be affected, perhaps even tainted, by that past ending.
How typical and appealing it is at the start of a new year to focus merely on a beginning and a fresh start. But without considering what came before, i.e., what has ended, our likelihood of success at whatever we are resolving to do is minimal. Perhaps we should ask what came before such that a new beginning is needed or desired. If our resolution is to lose weight, we should consider how we got to the point where extra pounds have been added. Were our eating habits at the end of the preceding year undisciplined? Was food being used to feed an emotional need? Only by taking into account the ending will the beginning have a good chance for success.
Alpha and Omega are bookends for the Greek alphabet. Alpha is the first letter, and Omega is the last. Alpha denotes the beginning while Omega denotes the ending. Alpha and Omega may be 22 letters apart (yes, the Greek alphabet is only 24 letters long), but they are linked by the letters in between. Alpha and Omega are at opposite ends of the alphabet, but they are both necessary for a complete listing. The bottom line is that there is no whole without a beginning and an end.
Referring to Alpha and Omega when speaking of beginning and endings underscores that the past does matter. The ancient Greek civilization ended, but its accomplishments affected the beginning of others. I may not grasp all that the Greeks did, but I understand that their alphabet had a beginning and an end.
As Christians, endings and beginnings are important, and they aren’t always tied to a calendar. Becoming a Christian is a new beginning resulting from the ending of the old sinful man; we are new creatures in Christ. (2 Cor. 5:17) Our gratitude and joy in this new state is impacted and even greater when we consider how hopeless our previous state was.
While it might be fun to debate when the world actually was created (DUH–in the beginning) and when it might end (the end is near! or not), what’s even more important is WHO is the beginning and the end. Revelation tells us three different times (1:8; 21:6 and 22:13) that God is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the first and the last. He is the beginning and the end. He is the whole and the One who can make us whole. If we begin this year with Him, He will see us through to the end. 2017 ended, but His presence in our lives does not even as a new year begins. Now that makes for a happy new year.