A Fateful New Year’s Eve

It was a splendid last evening of the year. Despite the advanced season, the weather was mild, and the moon illuminated the earth in beautiful splendor..  

It may have been about 11:00 p.m. at night when two young men followed a throng of people out of a theater. They proceeded to walk the short distance to their apartment complex. Silently they trudged along. One was thinking about the tragic ending of the film he had just seen; for his companion, it had already faded into oblivion. Inaudible to others, the Spirit of God was speaking to him: “In just one hour, an arduous year will have ended its course, giving way to the dawning of a new one.” His conscience was suddenly heavy with a strange regret for all the follies that had been committed in his life. A heartfelt desire arose in him that he would not repeat the transgressions of the past year.

At last, the perplexing solitude became unbearable to his friend. He suddenly broke the silence with the words: “Thomas, why are you in such a serious mood today? You’re acting as though you were returning home from a funeral.” 

“To tell you the truth, I don’t feel quite comfortable with the thought of having been a fool for so long,” came his reply. “And it seems to me that I should begin to grow wiser as early as tomorrow.” 

“What nonsense!” exclaimed his friend. “It seems that your good cheer has left you or some evil spirit has frightened you. Banish that gloomy mood!”

“My somber mood is a mystery to me as well,” he countered. “And yet I feel dissatisfied with myself.” 

“Not even a saint is pleased with himself, so this should not bewilder you at all,” his friend replied with a smile. “Now, first of all, you need to get into a better mood. You are as grumpy as a gravedigger. You won’t be any good for the coming festivities.” 

At the corner, they stopped to part ways. They shook hands in farewell, and each went to his own apartment. 

Thomas’ frame of mind was rattled. An unusual emotion, nobler and purer than had ever gripped him before, had arisen in him at the thought of the departing year. His multitude of transgressions appeared vividly before his soul, and he made a resolution to start immediately to lead a better course of life. 

He was actually close to carrying out this resolution, had he not at that moment thought of his friend, Julian. He had practically made a promise to his best friend to drive away those “annoying moral principles.” Shouldn’t he keep his word to him?

Oh, how damaging it is when a choice to “keep an obligation” is so wrong. Sadly, such a decision often has far-reaching consequences and decides eternal destiny or woe. 

Regrettably, Thomas stifled the new thought that had awakened in him. Stepping into his room, he soon lay down in bed. But by consciously suppressing his earlier nudging, he hardened his heart and grieved God’s Spirit. – 

After the friends had parted, Julian brooded as he continued on his way. “What a foolish notion for a young man,” he thought. “What a cloud of gloom has settled over Thomas’ cheerful nature!”

Julian could not get rid of the thought and became as restless as Thomas had been. His inner uneasiness increased, and he could not shake off the burden that had so suddenly descended upon his soul. He thought of his mother, now resting in the cemetery for two years, and of her last words, which he dared not recall. He sat down in his suite and stared into the starlit night. The light of the moon illuminated his face. And then, a heavenly light also shone down on him. At his bedside, he fell to his knees. It was a difficult struggle that the praying young man had to face. But who could describe the elation he felt as he triumphantly emerged, victorious from his fierce battle? It was a strange joyfulness, unknown to him until that moment. He decided to start a new life immediately – not on the coming New Year’s Day, but right at the hour of his decision! He vowed to remain faithful in difficult times to come. He asked God for strength to sustain him in his resolution. 

Reflecting on the divine transformation of his life, he sat in silence for half an hour. The first chime of the clock tower, announcing the last stroke the old year, roused him from his deep musing. “Thanks be to God!” he exclaimed. Rising, he stated: “May every hour of my life be an avid reminder to fulfill my worthy resolutions!” – 

Many years had elapsed in the flow of time. Again, it was New Year’s Eve. The night was dark. Thick snowflakes settled on a despondent man who walked gloomily through the street in a torn suit. His gait was stiff, and his cheeks were sunken. The world seemed to have treated him badly. He had battled hardship and misery and was a victim of addiction. At this moment, he was sober, since he lacked the money for intoxicating drinks. 

He approached a stately building and stopped in front of the steps. On the top step stood a distinguished gentleman with gifts, waiting for the front door to be opened. The beggar approached him, asking for a little something. Without much hesitation, the gentleman descended a few steps and handed the beggar some money. A sympathetic gaze for the needy man accompanied the small gift. The beggar did not even thank his benefactor for the gift he had received. With greedy anticipation, his glazed eyes peered at the money in his hand. Immediately, a burning thirst for a stiff drink was vehemently awakened in him.

They parted ways – the blessed, contented man, as well as the wretched, miserable one. One was respected, and the other was despised. Seventeen years ago, they had also parted ways on New Year’s Eve. At that time, they were good friends. Today, they had met and parted without even recognizing each other. The transformation that had taken place so long ago was drastic. One had been converted to Christ and had grown in grace. The other had spent the best years of his life in sin and was now consumed by a life of debauchery. Today they parted once more, never to meet again. 

The snowflakes fell thicker and heavier, and the wind became cutting and fierce. The people on the street wrapped themselves tightly into their coats and hurried to seek shelter from the icy wind. 

The wide street had become desolate – only one person was noticeable. He staggered from side to side, banging his head and limbs on lampposts. Haltingly, he made his way to the river at the end of the street. The wind howled toward him, and he answered its raging with blasphemous curses. The route led him toward certain destruction. 

The sound of the current hit his ear. With mad howls, he answered the raging waters. But his voice was drowned out by the storm and the roar of the waves. No one heard him or rushed to his rescue. He staggered – he fell – he sank! – The clock tower announced the midnight hour! – 

“Do not dampen the Spirit!” God’s warnings and admonitions knock on every heart. There is hardly a soul who has not experienced this at some time. Certainly, the Lord wants all people to be saved. Have you not also heard the warning voice of the Spirit of God? – What is your answer?

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