The traditional symbols of a new year are Father Time, with his hourglass and long, white beard; and Baby New Year, diapered and full of hope and promise. When I look at that number on my calendar — 2020 — I am afflicted with a form of sticker shock. Can it really be 2020? As a boy, I would hear my mother comment about how life is like a vapor or mist — here one minute and gone the next. I’d roll my eyes. How silly. I have a whole, long life ahead of me! But mother was right. I was the silly one (though children can be excused for failing to appreciate the ephemeral nature of life). Mom’s wisdom may have been simple experience talking. But she was also quoting Scripture. Job said, “My days on earth are but a shadow” (Job 8:9) and St. James – Bishop of Jerusalem and brother of our Lord – wrote, “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). The Bible tells us we are like a blade of grass; flourishing and green one moment and passing away the next. (Ps. 103:15; 1st Peter 1:24, 25)
Is that depressing? We needn’t let it be. Yes, our temporal life is fleeting and we are wise to make the most of it by loving God, loving others and loving ourselves in all the healthy, right ways God intends. But remember that all those passages about the swiftness and shortness of life also contain bright promises. “The grass withers. The flower fades. But the word of God lasts forever!” (Isaiah 40:8) “The Lord is good and His love endures forever!” (Psalm 100:5) “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even after dying.” (John 11:25) God, who holds time in His mighty hand, gets the final word – even about the seeming brevity of our lives. And God’s final word has already been spoken in Jesus. We are His. Forever.