Sound crazy? It's more common than you think. In the theatre world, this is what is known as "striking the set." For an actor, it's perhaps the most dreaded, unwelcome task there is.
I used to hate strike. Not only are you completely exhausted after pouring your heart and soul into that night's performance, but you have to stay around a few extra hours after closing night to tear apart the set, pack away the costumes, and take down all the lights. The entire time, you are conscious of the fact that you are voluntarily destroying your hard work and creativity. I distinctly remember taking an unusually long time on closing night to undress, take off my makeup, and make my way back to the stage to help with the strike efforts because I couldn't bear the thought of it. I haven't set foot on stage in ten years, and I still can't bear the thought of it!
Perhaps you've never been in a play, but you can still relate to what I'm saying. Now that the Christmas season is winding down, some of you will be taking down your Christmas tree, packing away the ornaments, and removing all the trimmings from around the house. It can be a depressing thing to dismantle the hard work, the creativity, and the love and care that went into decorating your home for Christmas. After everything is put away for another year, the house can look so empty and bare. A few days after this process, you may feel a little sad. It's hard to see something so beautiful come to an end, but it must. It can't stay Christmas forever.
If it's this difficult tearing down your Christmas decorations and saying good bye to 2008, imagine what it will be like when it is time to say goodbye to all of human history.This ritual is magnified by the fact that it often coincides with the sinking feeling of saying goodbye to another year. We look back on friends we've lost, opportunities gone by, and good things that came to an end. This can be especially hard when a loved one has died in the past year. For this reason, New Year's Eve has always been a difficult time for me personally. As a former existentialist, I tend to view the past year as some sort of thick liquid that holds certain precious moments in suspension. As I move forward into a new year, those moments stay trapped in the past, and I cannot take them with me. There is a reluctance to let go of the old. I don't want to say goodbye. I want to cling to that year and never let it go. This feeling is only natural, and I think it speaks volumes about our human tendency to cherish wood, hay, and stubble.
Tonight we merely say goodbye to one calendar year. And if it's this difficult tearing down your Christmas decorations and saying good bye to 2008, imagine what it will be like when it is time to say goodbye to all of human history.
They say all the world's a stage. If that is the case, then we can expect one day for the biggest strike of all time to occur. One day, this stage is going to be torn down by the very One who built it, and each of us will be required to help out. As the Creator of the Universe burns entire cities to the ground, each of us will have to shed the costumes we wore in this life, remove our masks, and wipe off all our makeup. For those who do not know Christ, it will be a sad time. They will ask the rocks to fall on them so they don't have to participate in striking the set. They will weep and mourn over the loss of the cardboard walls they built around themselves, never realizing that all the while they were rehearsing in front of an Audience of One when they thought no one was watching.
When strike comes, what will be your response? Will you cheerfully tear down your career, pack up your reputation, and throw away your accomplishments? Or will you be the actor going through the wreckage, crying, "Oh, no! I hate to see this one thing get thrown in the incinerator!"
We do not know the day nor the hour. But when the Great Director comes to strike the grand set, there will be no opportunities to salvage the curtains and the backdrop. There will be no autographs to sign. There will be no second bows. There will be nothing left except our crowns, to be cast at His feet.