Life magazine returns to the newsstands today after a six-year absence.

Henry Kissinger, who was photographed in Paris, for the last issue of the old weekly life in December 1972, dining with his staff during negotiations with the North Vietnamese, appears in the new monthly Life preparing to seize a straw between his upper lip and nose from the upper lip and nose of a Japanese Geisha.

Liza Minnelli was doing "Cabaret" when Life suspended publication. Now, she's chatting with designer Halston.

Life isn't what it used to be. Judging from the first issue, Life will be a gentler magazine. It is still full of pictures, but because of its monthly deadline the photographs will not often be of news events.

The first issue's cover story is about balloon flights. The old Life undoubtedly would have had extensive photographs of the double Eagle II which made the first successful transatlantic crossing in August. The new cover simply says "Ballons Are Bustin Out All Over" and all but one of the photographs are of ballons other than the Eagle.

"We're still going to be current," Life's managing editor Philip H. Kunhardt Jr. said, but he pointed out that with a monthly deadline and a considerable interval between closing an issue and its appearance on newsstands, Life cannot deal with events in progress like the Camp David Summit.

"We're going to have to wait until the large news stores have come to some conclusion," said Kunhardt, who has worked for Life since 1950.

The cost of covering the news in Life's style for a weekly deadline was in part responsible for the magazine's disappearance in 1972. Life once sent almost 100 people to cover a Papal ceremony, and everybody who worked for Life in its heyday has tales of the money spent chasing stories.

Now Life has an editorial staff of 37, compared to the 177 who worked for the weekly when it folded.

Competition from television for advertising and postal costs were other factors but lack of readers was never Life's problem and now they seem to be flocking back.

Life has 300,000 subscribers already, Kanhardt said, and it is counting on a large newsstand sale. Its parent, Time Inc., is forming it own distribution service for all its magazines and plans to push supermarket and drug store check-out counters where other publications have found large markets. To get there, Life is going to have to push some other magazine out.

The success of 10 special issues of Life published at irregular intervals during the last six years - and of People magazine - encouraged Time Inc. to revive Life.

The first issues has a member of "People" stories - on the Shah of Iran and his family, on the movie, 'The Wiz' and on Halston.

Kunhardt said that at one point he thought there might be a conflict between People and Life, but is convinced "they are entirely different magazine."

"Life doesn't really have a formula. I don't want to get into the celebrity cover business," Kunhradt said.

For people who claim that newspapers, television and magazines don't write enough about "good news" Life mayprovide some solace. Its first issue is very upbeat, and it is unafraid of the word love. Life tells us that there is "a loving boom" in a family reunions and asks "how could anyone not love a ballon?"

The Shah and his family are shown relaxing in their villa on the Caspian Sea. Life mentions that this is not the best of times for the king of kings, who faces internal opposition and foreign criticism of his autocratic rule, but the pictures tell the story - and they are of a handsome couple in luxurious surroundings swimming waterskiing and playing with their children.

In the tradition of the stark photo essays that Life invented is a story abot a brain damaged 4-year-old boy whose parents and 300 volunteers are trying to restore him to normal life by guiding his limbs through the movements of a normal infant in a process called pattering. Their work with the boy in shifts, six days a week and up to 12 hours a day, is recorded by the camera.

Life's first issue is 140 pages including 36 pages of advertising that brought more than $800,000 in revenues, a record for the first issue of a magazine.

Life is promising its advertisers a circulation of 700,000, but more than a million have been printed. It costs $1.30 a copy at newsstands or by subscription. Its predecessor sold for 50 cents at newsstands and 14 cents by subscription when it closed, after losing about $30 million units last four years.

It is the sme size as the old Life, the only magazine of that size in the United States; and the old red and white logo is still in the upper left corner, but it's grown bigger.

While Kissinger and Minnelli appeared both in the last issue of the new monthly, two men are back in Lucy created the magazine in 1936.

Alfred Eisenstaedt, 79, was one of the four original Life photographer for both issues. In 1936, Life ran a picture story about the moment of his birth. The new Life reprints that picture along with a current photograph of Story, a balding, broad-shouldered 42-year-old, standing on a San Diego Beach.