Anno Domini – 1976

Happy New Year!”

Over and over again we say it at the dawn of each New Year. And 1976 has been no exception.

But does it really make sense?

Disillusioned in their expectations of something new, the cynics may scoff and sneer about all these wishes for something “happy” and “new.”

They may even quote Scripture.

There is nothing new “under the sun.”

The Bible tells us that.

Listen to the Preacher, say the cynics:

“That which has been is that which shall he; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there a thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been long ago, in the ages which were before us” (Eccles. 1:9, 10).

Well, there you have it.

Will 1976 be a new and bright and golden year? Dont be foolish! It will just be more of the samethe same old troubles, corruption, crime, worries, and war. You see, even the Bible says so.

But the cynic is wrong, dead wrong.

He fails to get the whole story.

Indeed, the Preacher does say that there is nothing new “under the sun.” Once and again he writes of that which occurs “under the sun.” But before he is finished, the Preacher rises to a higher plane and writes also of that which is above the sun. Ecclesiastes ends on a higher note:

This is the end of the mailer; all hath been heard: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it he evil” (12:13, 14).

Happy New Year!” begins to make sense, only if by faith we rise above the sun—only when we commend each other to our sovereign and gracious Lord in heaven as the one and only source of happiness and of that which is really new.

To remain under the sun makes cynics and pessimists of us all. It is only when we seek our Happy New Year! from Him who reigns above the sun that we will not seek in vain.

And that’s why A. D. (Anno Domini) that we are accustomed to write behind the year is so allimportant. For it is in this little hit of Latin that, as believers, we give expression to Our Confession, to Our Confidence, and also to Our Commitment.

1. Anno Domini is Our Confession – We say thereby that in 1976 also we are “in the year of our Lord.”

True, when Jesus came, now almost two thousand years ago, He came to suffer and to die. But He came also to reign supreme as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Anno Domini, for the believer, is not just a cold and lifeless division of history into a before and an after. Rather, it is a warm and vibrant declaration of: “This I believe about my Lord and King.” It is the ringing confession concerning our risen and ascended Lord, now at God‘s right hand:

“Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever” (Rev. 21:13).

It gives pause for serious thought, and may well be terrifying for those who do not know and serve our Lord, to realize that three fourths of today‘s world is under Communist rule. How long before the ruthless dictators who hold sway elsewhere may strip us of our freedom and subject us also to their slavery and tyranny, only God knows. Our frail bark of freedom is on a perilous voyage, and disaster can strike at almost any moment.

Thank God then for Anno Domini. Come what may. our blessed Savior is still on His throne; and if not even a hair shall fall from our heads apart from His will, how safe then our heads and hearts and homes must be in His gracious care and keeping.

Anno Domini is a confession.

It is our confession in and by which we locate the headquarters of the universe. The way we keep our eyes and ears open to read or to hear the bad news of the world day after day, one would think that the headquarters must he in Washington, D. C., Peking, Moscow, Hanoi, or elsewhere on this troubled planet. As ruthless dictators come and go, and as their cruel kingdoms rise and fall, men‘s hearts faint and fail for fear, and all hopes and plans for abiding peace come tumbling down like the proverbial house of cards. For those who never get out from under the sun there is no hope and finally all the lights go out.

But anyone who can face another unknown year with Anno Domini in his heart and also on his lips knows better. We have a Lord and Savior who reigns supreme all “the days of our years,” all the years of our lives, and even for ever and ever. Like Isaac Watts, we too may testify:

Let every creature rise and bring Peculiar honors to our King, Angels descend with songs again And earth repeat the loud Amen.”

2. Anno Domini is also Our Confidence. Ours is a day when genuine confidence is becoming an extremely scarce commodity. We live in a time when neuroses multiply while psychiatrists and mental hospitals are in an ever increasing demand. Our unprecedented material affluence serves, for those who rely on it, as a stupefying drug to make this frightened generation think that there is nothing to fear except fear itself.

Clinging to the phony confidence that the pleasures and treasures of this world afford, those who will not bow the knee before Christ as Lord refuse to believe that doomsday will ever occur. Always, human ingenuity leads us to the end of this world’s tether, and would-be statesmen in endless succession leave their followers in the lurch.

But amid all this, Anno Domini gives confidence, consolation, and courage even when the whole world comes apart at the seams and falls to pieces around our heads.

Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, National Director of the American Jewish Committee‘s Interreligious Affairs Department, is a super salesman for the interests of American Jewry. Once on his mailing list (if my experience is typical), an editor is peppered with an endless stream of news releases to promote the cause he serves. And the Rabbi does know what is going on in our troubled world, as he revealed again in a recent release, dated December 9.

“Mankind,” says Tanenbaum, “is living increasingly in an age of violence and terror. There is not a continent on the earth today that is not despoiled by religious and ethnic conflict and massacres, as in Ireland, Cyprus, Lebanon, Uganda, Ethiopia, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Crime has risen astronomically in the United States as a result of the pervasive availability of 40 million guns, and the growing destruction of human life. On the international scene, the nations of the world spent $240 billion on nonnuclear weapons and support of military forces. In 39 countries, there are some 445 nuclear installations established in ‘Atoms for Peace’ programs, but which are easily convertible into weapons for nuclear destruction.”

“So far, Rabbi, so good,” we reply. But the tragedy is that the Rabbi, who discerns the crisis so clearly, does not recognize that Christ is the only answer. Obviously incensed at my claim that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, an Israeli employee of his countrys ElAI airline tried once to squelch what I was saying by his impatient retort, “Do you suppose that, if the Messiah had really come, the world would be in the mess it’s in?”

If they think of it at all, how galling this annual Anno Domini must be for those who repudiate Christ and His rule over the world in sovereign power and His special rule over His people in sovereign grace.

Anno Domini spells confidence.

Those men of Heidelberg said it so well, when more than 400 years ago they formulated this masterpiece:

“QuestionWhat is your only comfort in life and death?

“Answer – That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head, yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.”

Talk about confidence – what more could we possibly want!

3. Anno Domini is also our commitment – Every New Year, 1976 also, is another year of our Lord. It belongs to Him—every day, every hour, every minute of it.

The years do not follow one upon another without meaning or without purpose. There is no extra or superfluous time allotted to us in “the days or our years.” Every bit of it is given for the cause of our King and for the coming of His kingdom.

Of Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, we are told that when he heard a clock strike the hour he would say, “Now I have one more hour to answer for.” Under God, the secret of the heoric deaths of the martyrs as well as of the amazing lives and labors of the Apostle Paul, John Calvin, Abraham Kuyper, and others who were so outstanding in the service of the King may be summed up in one word: commitment.

To be wholly committed to Christ as our Lord and King not only in word but also in deed in every area of life calls for real courage. Our generation uses Anno Domini or A. D. so glibly, but to the vast majority it is merely a convenient device to mark the point to which we have arrived in world history.

Anyone who shows that he is in dead earnest about his A.D. commitment and begins seriollsly to try to implement this in politics, in business, in labor, in education, in science, and too often even in the church, will soon encounter bitter opposition, if not outright persecution.

Although he was dubbed “the gloomy dean,” the late Dean Inge of St. Paul’s, London made a truly discerning observation when he once said, “We are losing our Christianity because Christianity is a creed for heroes, while we are mainly harmless, goodnatured little people who want everybody to have a good time.”

As 1976 moves on from day to day, and from week to week, let‘s ask ourselves, as those who profess to be Christian, “Honestly now, what specific purpose do I have for the service of my Lord in this New Year? To what challenge in His service am I responding with whatever talents and possessions He has entrusted to my care?”

It is a mockery to say Anno Domini and then to live out the year serving only ourselves in secular pursuits. A certain wit once observed so fittingly about church members, “They are all ‘in good and regular standing,’ but, would to God, that they were all ‘in good and regular motion.’”

Whoever has eyes to see must recognize that our Lord’s Help Wanted list is long and challenging. Workers are so sorely needed everywhere: for the home; for the school; for those who are sick, poor, or homeless; for the city, state, and nation; for those who have gone astray; and for the coming of our Lord’s kingdom in every nook and cranny of our world. In this service there is never a furlough, and from it there is no discharge.

Just recently on New Year‘s morning we probably sang it once again with gusto in church:

“Another year is dawning! Dear Father, let it be On earth, or else in heaven Another year for Thee”

And since then—well what has our 1976 been since then? Has it been such that there has been cause for rejoicing in heaven because of our service since then? Or has the devil been laughing up his sleeve since then because of what he knows to be just an annual rigamorole or so much malarkey that does not cause even a ripple in his God-forsaken inferno?

In just two letters, A.D. is a confession, a confidence, and a commitment. God grant that it may be nothing less than that for you and for me until our years shall end in the calendars of men, and until time shall be no more.

Belated though it may now be, a very happy and blessed 1976 Anno Domini to you and all of yours!