The old year is nearly gone and the New Year is almost upon us. For many this conjures up thoughts of parties, a new beginning, bowl games and resolutions. I must confess, for the past several years (10 or so) I have not been a fan of “New Year’s Resolutions”. However, in light of the Christmas Season I have started to think of them differently.
A reason I have had an aversion to New Year’s Resolutions is simple; why wait? E.g., in 2012 I am going to 1) lose weight, 2) get organized, 3) spend less & save more, 4) quit smoking, 10) spend more time with family, etc. I am not opposed to any of those things. Yet in the past I would think, “If they are so important…why wait? Why not start to change now…?” Have you ever been around someone going on a diet – or gone on one yourself? If so I am certain this is familiar, “My diet starts in three days (or next year)…so I have until then to eat whatever I want…” Add into this way of thinking any New Year’s resolution and it can be twisted into a free for all time period because after all, "in 2012 I am going to do better." However, after a week (estimates and statistics vary), three out of four New Year’s resolutions will have been broken (click on the 1/6/10 radio spot in the new window). There are a variety of factors for why New Year’s Resolutions fail. One is the simple fact that change is difficult. Yet I wonder if a “last minute free for all” also sets us up for failure.
Be those things as they may be; why am I having a change of thinking toward New Year’s Resolutions? It is tied into the reality of the Christmas Season. When our focus shifts from a day (or a few family gatherings) to a celebration of the Incarnation, and its implications, the stage is set for everything to change. Indeed, it brings fresh meaning to “out with the old and in with the new” (cf. 2Cor5:17).
All that makes a New Year exciting in the minds of many needs to be brought under the Lordship of Jesus – the Christ. After all, “New Year’s Day” is found within the Christmas Season. Yet what difference does this make? For starters, it ought to bring about a shift in some, if not all, of our resolutions. Why not resolve to get to know a neighbor down the street (even next door) and begin praying – earnestly – for them to submit their life to Jesus? Why not get accountability in this task of neighbor evangelism? Why not, in light of the Incarnation, seek to live an incarnational life among people who really need to know God’s love?
In other words, with a New Year nearly upon us, what changes for the sake of the Kingdom will you make? Take some time today and reflect on the past year in light of the Incarnation. What difference has it really made in me? What would others say? Have I loved those who are “unlovely” (e.g., a bad boss, an unfriendly neighbor, a social outcast, etc.) in the eyes of the world? Have I loved what is unlovely in the eyes of God? How has the reality of the Incarnation impacted how I have spent money? Etc.
Yes, the Christmas Season changes everything – even the approach a follower of Jesus ought to take with a New Year upon us. Oh yes, and as far as a “free for all” prior to making a big change at the start of a New Year, this is still problematic. Yet if a change is to be lasting it must be empowered by the Holy Spirit of God…and this takes prayer.
So how about something like this? View Advent as a time of fasting and prayer as we long for the return of Jesus. During this time I am certain the Holy Spirit will reveal some changes God desires in your life. Next, view the Christmas Season as a springboard to put these godly changes into practice. This sounds a lot better than the typical approach to the New Year and resolutions. And you know what? I bet a lot of the things in a typical “resolution list” will work themselves out as byproducts of growing closer to God.
Merry Christmas – and let our hearts turn even more to having the New Year honor the One who owns all of time anyway.