My memoires about New Year’s Eve as a kid are as vivid to me as the ones I have about Christmas Eve. My family always attended the New Year’s Eve Service at our little church in Akron, Ohio. There would be plenty of singing and usually a movie up in the sanctuary followed by games and some great food down in the church basement. This would all lead up to that climactic moment just before midnight as we would all gather back upstairs in the sanctuary and form a large circle around the pews as we held hands. Our pastor, along with many of the other men within our church, would then lead us in praying in the New Year.
I remember listening to those prayers every New Year’s Eve with the sound of fireworks taking place in the park across the street from the church echoing as a backdrop. The highlight of the night would come during that time when my dad would take his turn in praying. I would wait for his prayer with excited yet nervous anticipation because every year my dad would end his prayer with the same words. He would pray, “And God, please let this be the year that Jesus returns! Amen!”
Though we are many years removed from those childhood days, that prayer remains in my heart and on my lips every New Year’s Eve. On Christmas we celebrated the first coming of Jesus when He was born as a baby in Bethlehem in order to die as a sacrifice and a substitute for our sin. Forty days after His bodily resurrection from the dead, He ascended back into heaven as two angels appeared to His followers promising that this same Jesus who they watched go up in the clouds would one day return. That’s not fantasy or mythology; it is the very promise of the Word of God and the great hope of every person who has put their faith in Jesus.
So, how will I celebrate the last moments of 2012 and the first moments of 2013? When midnight rolls around on New Year’s Eve I will think of my dad and that little church back in Akron, Ohio, and I will whisper a prayer that will end with the words, “And God, please let this be the year that Jesus returns! Amen!”