A Remembrance Of Death

“What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?”

— Psalm 89:48

Tonight we say goodbye to the old year and usher in the new. It’s a special time of reflection and tradition, and perhaps tonight you’ll engage in your own celebration as this year passes into the next. Perhaps you’ll look back on favorite memories of the past year and anticipate some new adventures in the year to come.

But many will spend their New Year’s Eve getting drunk. Have you ever wondered why so many people feel the need to do that? Think about it. Is it just a tradition? Or is it something more?

Perhaps the Romans of old knew. They had a phrase for it: momento mori, a “remembrance of death.” The old year is frequently pictured in art as a doddering old man staggering his way into oblivion.

If you think about it, the picture is quite fitting. The Bible tells us that Satan has held the whole world in bondage through the fear of death. With that truth in mind, I can realize why the unregenerate, who have never been delivered from that fear, who do not have the blessed assurance of eternal life, feel the need to get drunk. If another year’s passing brings them that much closer to death, it’s no wonder they want to obliterate that reality with alcohol. It is really ironic, for the whole world prides itself on its realism and chides Christians for believing in “fairy tales.” Some realists! These people can’t face the greatest reality that every human being must inevitably face: the fact of death.

But that doesn’t stop some people from trying. If we go back to 300 B.C., we find the hedonist philosopher, Epicurus, who said that death doesn’t concern us, for as long as we exist, death is not here, and when death comes, we no longer exist. But that isn’t so. We cannot remove death through philosophy, science, or medicine.

It is only in Christ that our mortality ceases to be frightening. For only in Him do we know what awaits us after death or, more accurately, Who awaits us after death. Christians can echo the apostle Paul: “To live is Christ; to die is gain.”

Tonight, as you say goodbye to an old year and usher in a new one, rejoice that you’re one year closer to meeting our Father in Heaven. Death’s door holds no fear for you; you’re on your way to eternal life united with Christ. Now that’s something to celebrate.

“Not what we call death, but what [is] beyond death is … [what] … we fear.”
T. S. Eliot