The start of the new year is one of those moments when time, this long river that we are floating in, is brought into sharp focus. We stand at the threshold of a dividing line, having crossed it and forced to make a meaningful division between what has passed and what is to come.
Let us consider this as we visit the passage written by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
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,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Our God, who transcends time, has made us and placed us in a world where time is as such: past, present, future. As Singaporeans we are so privileged and so prosperous that the phrase ‘no time la’ has become the status quo. Our fixation with the work and the pleasures of this life, simply because we have plenty, is often addressed with the admonition to ‘store our treasures in heaven and not on earth’.
And yet, this perspective can also be taken to its extreme, where our vision is so fixed on that we are waiting for, that ordinary life becomes, to quote Eugene Peterson, ‘something biblical people endure or put up with or hurry through as we wait around for the end time and its rocket launch into eternity.’ Peterson challenges this and suggests that ‘ordinary time is a gift through which we participate in the present and daily work of God.’
As God reminds us through Ecclesiastes 3, ‘there is a time for everything’. And while the life that was redeemed at such great cost on the cross stretches into eternity, it has already begun now. Have we been living this redeemed life so ‘fully’ with work and play that we have no time to be that witness? On the other hand, have we been living this redeemed life with a sense of joyless duty and careless disregard for each passing hour, such that it is hardly a witness to the fullness of God’s love? Have we been living it as a hurried grasping at straws, or as inattentive procrastination?
As we begin the new year, let us take time to reflect and to confess in prayer that we have not been good stewards of the time given to us.
(Adapted from the church’s Order of Worship on 3 Jan 2016 by David Toh)