Daily Devotion - Wednesday, December 30, 2015
This week for our Daily Devotions, we'll be focusing on the coming of a new year, and what it means to be given a fresh start, a second chance and another opportunity to become the people that God has always dreamed for us to become.
"New Year's Day is every man's birthday." - Charles LambWhen I was in seminary, I accrued a fairly massive library fine during my final semester. It was out of necessity, because in order to secure the books I needed to write my final paper, I had to keep them out longer than the allotted time--mostly so other people wouldn't check them out and leave me twisting in the wind without my resources.
At any rate, the fine was massive, and I had to pay it in order to graduate. So, the week before graduation, I went to the library with my checkbook in hand, prepared to pay the piper.
"I've got a massive fine." I told the librarian. She took my ID and looked me up in her computer and then she shook her had with a small smile, "No you don't." I argued, "But I do--I have like a $300 fine that I have to pay or they won't let me graduate, and trust me, I want to graduate." She gestured to the computer screen. "There's nothing there. It's all been taken care of."
I was flabbergasted. "How? Did someone pay the fine for me?" She laughed. "You don't read your emails very carefully do you? This is the Year of Jubilee, and to celebrate the seminary has zeroed out all of the library fines that students have accrued this year."
I walked out of the library that day like I was walking on air. And I learned a valuable lesson: Never underestimate the power of a second chance.
The Year of Jubilee was part of God's great covenant with ancient Israel. Every fifty years all debts were erased, all land that had been sold or mortgaged during the past fifty years was returned to the original family that owned it. The Year of Jubilee was a way for God to keep reminding God's people that their land, their provisions, their prosperity depended upon God, and one another.
It was also a way for those who had fallen on hard times, whose parents and grandparents had made mistakes that fell upon the shoulders of their children and grandchildren, to get a second chance, to start over again.
Sadly, the Year of Jubilee was not observed as it should have been, even in the ancient world, and now is largely a ceremonial celebration. The closest thing we have is our annual celebrations surrounding the new year, which are a poor substitute for the freedom that comes from the absolution of debt, reversal of fortunes and family restoration.
What we can learn from things like the Year of Jubilee, however, is just how important second chances are to God. Our God is the God of second chances, of new beginnings and new creation. Through these lessons we learn that we are not defined by our past, we are defined by God, who sees us through the eyes of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.
May you embrace the second (or third, or fiftieth) chance you have been given in this new year. May you choose to live more fully for the One who loves you enough to never stop giving you chances to start over again. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.