Out with the old…
“Thus, if anyone is in the Messiah, there is a new creation! Old things have gone, and look – everything has become new!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (New Testament for Everyone)
Happy New Year! There is always something exciting about a new thing, don’t you think? New cars, new homes, new babies, new relationships. Quite possibly, over the past few weeks, there will have been a number of new things opened in your home. Maybe not so many new cars and new babies, but you never know! Christmas may seem like a distant memory, but the gifts we received are probably still around, and some of them will yet retain a touch of that newness. The frisson of excitement as the wrapping paper comes off, the wide-eyed wonder provoked by the truly amazing gift, the baffled bemusement when confronted by a well-meaning present from somebody who doesn’t really get you. Or possibly does! That all goes along with the new – there is a sense of expectation, hope even, that this will be something amazing. Often it isn’t, but our anticipation is rarely diminished. There has also been a new Doctor Who, but I won’t dwell on that here…
There is, of course, something about the new which causes us to reflect on the old. Is this new thing as good as the old thing, we may ponder. We face another year of seemingly interminable news about Brexit negotiations, as that new relationship continues to take shape – and necessarily the new one with our other, worldwide trading partners.
I offer no general conclusions, but do feel that losing the old can often leave a gap in our lives which we struggle to fill satisfactorily, which is why, I suppose, nostalgia is such big business. Christmas was always snowier, people had better manners, you never needed to lock your door…the list goes on! I confess I am not immune to the tendency to look in the rear view mirror of life. I have, for some time, being trying to find a digital version of an old Christian music album, ‘Press On’ by John Daniel Lawtum. I forgive you if you’ve never heard of it or him, but it was on a cassette recording I owned back in the 1980s, and as far as I know, it has never been released on CD, and it went the way of all my ‘compact cassettes’ – to the tip some years ago, I suspect. I suppose by modern standards it was an album of very average musical quality, but there is a song on it which has a timeless truth encased in it. It is the only song I can remember, to be honest, and it is the title track, ‘Press On’. It is based on Hosea 6:3,
Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
like the spring rains that water the earth.
And that sentiment has stuck with me ever since – no matter what, we must keep going, certain that the Lord will be with us. We can have confidence that, whatever else changes, He does not.
While searching for this elderly musical offering online, I encountered a digitized version of another old recording, from the 1982 Dales Bible Week, which I attended as a 14 year old boy, and which features tracks such as ‘Majesty’, ‘Jesus We Enthrone You’ and the splendid ‘Ascribe Greatness’, songs which don’t seem to be sung any more – yet we manage to sing songs from the 1800s almost every week. Ah well. If you want to have a listen for yourself, there is a project underway to make available digital versions of some of these old recordings, which you can find at http://vintageworshiptapes.com/index.html.
Of course, modern stuff can be amazing, and certainly the lack of recorder accompaniments on modern worship CDs is to be applauded, but the sheer, naked enthusiasm of the singing on that old Dales tape – unsophisticated, minimally directed, just lived – is a thing to inspire. Believers who know that their God is just and perfect, loving and eternal. And right there with them. There can be something of the rock concert/studio album about modern worship CDs and digital downloads, which strips them of that authentic worship element.
And our faith, as followers of that Babe of Bethlehem, keeps a foot in both camps. Following Jesus means marrying together the best of the past with the best of the rest. We need the old, it provides the foundation for our beliefs, but all who come to know the Lord are made new. Progress is never made unless new ideas are embraced, and yet our identity is lost when the old is jettisoned. As Christians we too are limited not to the old or the new, but look to the future while being true to the past – we await the return of Jesus while celebrating his birth, life, death and resurrection 2000 years ago.
What matters is that we press on to know the Lord. We must press on into 2018. Taking with us the durable old stuff, the things which strengthen us in the faith, yet taking on board the new, which will give us the energy to press on further. As the smell of fresh plastic recedes, and the novelty of Christmas trinkets begins to wear thin, our God remains our rock – His work is perfect and all His ways are just.
So as we wave goodbye to 2017 and press on into the New Year it’s worth remembering that for all of our past experiences – and in all our future ones – God remains the same.
Press on, one and all!