What Will Make Your New Year, New?  


My two boys, ages 6 and 11, are now into hockey—ice hockey.  Which is pretty unusual for a couple of California kids. So in honor of their budding new sports passion, my husband and I selected “The Mighty Ducks” to have a special family dinner and movie night for New Year’s Eve. We watched Emilio Estevez, circa 1993, bring a rag-tag local hockey team from obscurity into a tournament-winning force. Definitely a feel good movie and a late night for us all.

The next morning was the first day of the brand new year, and I was desiring to focus our attention on Jesus before the day got away from us. We gathered up on the couch, and I read the next story in our devotional book. We typically read these at night, but because we were partying with the Mighty Ducks last night, it seemed good to do this now on New Year’s Day morning.

Our Bible reading began with Acts 1, after Jesus was crucified, raised from the dead, and living again among his followers for about a month. When it was time for him to depart and return to heaven, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem to be baptized by the promised Holy Spirit. The book of Acts records that it happened during the time of Pentecost and about 40 days from the Passover.

For three years, the disciples had lived, traveled and learned directly from Jesus. They knew the Son of God and witnessed miracles, storms, triumphs, and persecutions. They had grown to know and love Jesus as their teacher, friend and, at last, Savior. Now a major part of their life had ended, as Jesus ascended into heaven for an unknown period of time. The days of Jesus teaching them face-to-face were over. I wondered what it was like to watch Jesus leave, and then head off to a hostile Jerusalem to wait.

We can feel emotions like that in January.  We know in our hearts some things are over. Some things about our lives are not going forward into our future. Children grow out of phases, young adult kids move out or go off to college, jobs end, and some of us have loved ones who have died.  There were changes and losses that happened in the course of the past year that marked the end of a season, an activity, or a relationship.  In our adult minds we know this is just part of life. Things do not remain the same. Resiliently, we often find an ability to look forward to good in the new year in spite of some sad goodbyes in our past year.

Perhaps the disciples were feeling a bit this way?  They probably would have preferred to hang onto Jesus, the now glorified Son of God. However, they trusted his plan and went together to Jerusalem in obedience. They waited prayerfully, expectantly. What would this Holy Spirit be like? Jesus had called him a helper, a comforter, and that power would also come for serving as witnesses of God (John 14 and 16).  Who knew what Jesus was up to now?  Clearly He can do anything!

They must have done a lot of reflecting and anticipating in those ten days between Jesus’ ascension and that morning of Pentecost. It seems like Jesus gave them this period of time just for that reason.  Do I need a time of reflection, too? Do you?

Instead of being in a hurry to go on to the next thing or rush ahead, it might be better to slow down and reflect, gather thoughts. Maybe it would be important to take time to remember what was the best of the past, acknowledge what is no longer, and pray to prepare for what is coming ahead. What would happen?

Fifty days after the Passover and 10 days after Jesus ascended, the disciples experienced what Jesus promised.  “At the right time a sound like a blowing of a violent wind came down from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:2-3a).  The crowds in Jerusalem from every nation who were there for Pentecost heard that wind and came to see what it was about.

They saw and heard the disciples, and those who had been with them, praising God, and in the power of the Holy Spirit were speaking in all of the languages of the gathered crowd.  In his first bold sermon, Peter stood up and explained the miracle of the Holy Spirit and declared as a witness to the whole story of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. He offered an invitation to repent, receive forgiveness in Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit as well.

That day about 3,000 put their faith in Jesus and the earliest Christ-followers began living as family who ate together, worshipped God, and generously shared and cared for each other’s needs.  Their congregation was sincere and loving, and many were drawn to their faith. They grew in number daily.

What a triumphant new day for the earliest believers!  Now the gift of the personal Holy Spirit had come to reside in the hearts of all who put their faith in Jesus.  What an amazing ability each Christian has to commune with the very Spirit of God, and have the power to be witnesses re-telling the Gospel truth!

The disciples who knew Jesus now faced a new year, a whole new way of life. God fulfilled his New Covenant (Jeremiah 31) and sent the miracle of the Holy Spirit so we would never be alone but have our God faithfully with us. What an amazing gift, one best described by the expression “the gift that keeps on giving.” All generations may have this same spiritual relationship with God.

Back in our living room, my sons and I discussed the Bible devotion, just as we have so many other nights before. Except this time, my six-year-old asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. He invited the Holy Spirit into his heart. What a joy! A humble prayer and child-like faith are all Jesus asks in order for my son to know him. I pray for strong roots and faith that endures.

Sometimes we feel like those rag-tag Mighty Ducks, well meaning in our faith but never clutching victory. As far as I can tell, the point of movie is that people just need one good leader to make the difference. How blessed believers are to have the one leader who makes all things new. We can reflect and anticipate—expectantly. What new experience does God have in store for you? For your family? I pray you will find your something new and be completely blown away.

Charissa Kolar is co-author of  Your Newborn Promise Project: A Pre-Parenting Primer for Husband and Wife, co-producer the Newborn Promise Podcast, and a Graham Blanchard Inc. project director. 

Photo and Text Copyright © 2017 Charissa Kolar