A newspaper cartoon that intrigued me as a child appeared every year on the first of January. Just under the headline on the front page of the Des Moines Register was the depiction of the old year and the new. The old was a hunched, bald, and bearded old man, carrying a sickle and wearing a banner with the number of the year that had just passed, and the new year was a spunky baby wearing a diaper and a different banner that named the year that had just begun. Every year there was a new drawing that had these same hallmarks, and every year, from around the age of nine through twelve, I was fascinated by them, and recall studying their every detail.1
I also recall thinking that the baby too soon became old: In one year, he, too, would move from lively sweetness to decrepitude, and another new baby would take his place, and so on and on. This once-a-year cartoon heralded both the linear and cyclical quality of time: its linear movement from point to point (from year’s beginning to end) as well as its cycling round from beginning to yet another beginning, year after year.
It seems to me that the cyclical structure of nature (by which we measure time) is the format through which God signals his gift of loving opportunity after loving opportunity to be turned to him, intimating his offer is constant, perpetual, and unending. And we, once having
tasted of the truth, of the true wisdom, of the true power, of the true life, of the true righteousness, of the true redemption . . . we come to know that that which the world hath set up in the stead of it, is not the thing itself. . . . [A] real change [is] brought forth in us out of that spirit wherein the world lives and worships, into another Spirit, into which nothing which is of the world can enter. . . . Whatever comes from us, is to come from the new principle of life in us, and to answer that in others; but we must not please the old nature at all in ourselves, nor in any else.2
Once having found “the thing itself,” we can earnestly declare: Out with the old, worldly self, and in with “the new principle of life!” Our path is no longer determined by nature and its cycles, but becomes linear – purposeful – as we move ourselves into position to receive, know, and live by the inward light of “Christ [who] is all, and in all.”3 His paths made straight, we are teleologically attentive, Omega-bound creatures.
Here the Apostle lists qualities, which – this first day of 2023 – we may resolve to emulate. Moreover, they are qualities to be received, as the day star arises in our hearts4:
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. If any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.5
1 It’s likely these cartoons were the work of Frank Miller, who worked for the Des Moines Register from 1953 to 1983. In 1963, Miller received the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.
2 Isaac Penington, The Works of Isaac Penington (Glenside, Pa.: Quaker Heritage Press, 1995), 1:93.
3 Col. 3:11 The King James Version is used throughout the essay.
4 2 Pet. 1:19
5 Col. 3:12-15
Day Star risen over waning Moon