The New Year begins with celebrations, resolutions, and hopes that things will be better in the new year. There is something about having a new beginning that gives us hope. Yet, by mid-February, over 80% of the resolutions made at the beginning of this new year failed. That is a pretty depressing statistic, which leads us to ask, "Why make resolutions in the first place?"
In the church, the new year began back at the beginning of December with Advent. Advent is the season that invites us to be still and wait. Wait as we prepare for the coming not of a new year but of Christ. Wait in, and with hope.
I was grateful to have the month of December as a sabbatical to step away from the busyness, to rest, and to be renewed.
It reminded me of the importance of being still so that my heart and spirit could be open and ready to receive the gift of Christ. As strange as it sounds, it can be easy to forget that being church is about Jesus, about following Jesus, and about living as God's beloved.
We need constant reminding; that is why I think the new year in the church begins with the season of Advent's invitation to wait, prepare our hearts and spirits, and receive this incredible gift of God dwelling among us, within us. On Christmas, we are given this gift – good news of great joy for all people. Talk about hope! Then we enter the season of Epiphany, revealing the nature of this gift, who Jesus is, and inviting us to open and "use" this gift as followers of Jesus.
As we begin this new year, in this season of Epiphany, let us as the church remember and recommit ourselves to the gift that is Christ and let that light, our light, Christ's light, shine before others.
There is certainly nothing wrong with resolving to eat healthier, exercise more, spend wisely, connect more with friends, etc. However, the likelihood of success is pretty slim when our motivation is to whip ourselves into shape because we are so "out of shape." But if we start with Christ, with his light, and affirm that God does indeed dwell within us, wouldn't we want to live in ways that are healthy and open and compassionate so that Christ's light is able to shine through us in ways that others can see and experience?
The news at the beginning of this year does not seem to be that hopeful – there is the ongoing war between Israel and the Gaza strip; an economy that continues to challenge our finances; frigid arctic blasts, blizzards, and flooding; a growing crisis at the border with large numbers of immigrants looking for a better life; and the beginning of yet another contentious political season of campaigning. That is a lot, and it is only the middle of January! That is why we, as people of faith who have received and see Christ present in all, who have been invited to follow Jesus, are called to let our light shine. What if our commitment this coming year is to live and speak, to act and treat others in and with the light of Christ's love? How might this new year be different for all?