Well, it’s finally happened! The old year has passed and the New Year is arriving!
Is there anyone else who is glad for that? The beautiful part of a New Year is that it gives us a chance to start fresh, to begin again, to look ahead with hope and anticipation for a year’s script that has yet to be written!
But wait … isn’t that what we say every year at this time, no matter what the past year hath wrought? Such dreams and anticipations of the future are notions to which we have gravitated for … well, forever, it seems.
But it also helpful to consider what we have learned from the past year.
When I review the happenings of this past year, it brings to mind a vivid memory of one of the first Christmases we celebrated with our oldest child. Just over a year old, she received many gifts from both sets of grandparents and her parents! And, as was the tradition, we waited until Christmas morning for her to open those gifts.
After helping her decide which gift to open first, she continued to open the presents one at a time until they were all spread out on the floor in front of her. As she somewhat fearfully looked at the array of toys and clothes and “stuff” that was displayed before her, suddenly she burst into tears. Although she could not totally and completely verbalize the reason for the tears, it seemed that she was so overwhelmed with the choices that she could not decide which toy to play with first!
As we worked with her in attempting to resolve that issue, she found the box in which one of the gifts had been wrapped, and began to play with that, crawling in and out of it and playing hide and seek. She eventually moved to another box, and then a third.
For the next hour or so, this little girl was joyfully content playing with the boxes rather than the gifts themselves.
Sometimes, I believe that is the way we look at life. We get all concerned about the boxes of life – the politics, the viruses, the issues over which we seemingly have no control. We go into rage over those things, but we seemingly ignore and bypass the most important “gift” we have been given.
As we approach the New Year, may I encourage each of us to consider the gift that is the most valuable and most important in our life – the gift of the Christ child, sent by God to be born, to live and to die for you and for me, so that indeed we might live forever?
In approaching the New Year, if you are an individual who makes resolutions, please make one of the highest on your list to walk with Christ more closely each day of this coming year. You will not regret it.
But New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep, aren’t they? Most of them relate to weight loss and exercise.
At this time of the year, gym memberships, even in the age of COVID, are soaring. According to one survey, the average time for people to faithfully continue keeping their New Year’s resolutions is about 40 days. By the middle of February, most have forsaken the task of keeping what they began for the New Year. But that has been true throughout history.
Take, for example, literary giant Samuel Johnson.
In 1738, Johnson wrote in his diary: “Oh Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth.” Nineteen years later, he wrote, “Oh mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by diligent application of the days yet remaining.”
He wrote some variation of this prayer every year after that.
Finally, in 1775, 38 years after his first resolution, he wrote, “When I look back upon resolution of improvement and amendments which have, year after year, been made and broken, why do I yet try and resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary, and despair is criminal.”
Johnson is describing human life. We start every year thinking, “This is the year!” We resolve to turn over a new leaf — and this time we are serious.
We promise ourselves we are going to quit bad habits and start good ones. We’re going to get in shape, eat better, waste less time, be more content, be more disciplined, and so forth. We are going to be better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers.
And then, 12 months later, we have fallen short … again.
The gospel is the good news announcing Jesus’ infallible devotion to us despite our inconsistent devotion to him.
We have it for ourselves in Jesus’ own words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30.
As this new year gets under way, take comfort in knowing that we are weak and he is strong — that even as our love for Jesus falls short, Jesus’ love for us never will.
That’s a New Year’s promise you can count on!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.