What to Make of New Years?
So, I’m not a huge fan of New Years. I mean, it was fun as a kid when it served as an excuse to stay up late and eat more desert, but once I became old enough to start thinking about the year that has passed and the year that is to come, that all changed. So here I sit, thinking about 2016 slipping into the past and the arrival of 2017, I can’t help but feel the old heaviness, the cynicism, the sorrow that marks New Years past. As Jon Foreman crooned on the Switchfoot song, “The Blues”, “Does justice never find you? Do the wicked never lose? Is there any honest song to sing besides these blues?”
And I would guess that I’m not alone. Quite a few of you probably feel the same. This past year has been a painful one, from a volatile political scene, to the crisis in Aleppo, to our own broken hearts, empty bank accounts, and the tail-lights of people we thought would be here forever. Reflecting on the year behind us brings up a lot of pain. It wasn’t the year we wanted it to be.
So what do we do? Resolve to grab the year ahead, full of promise, ready to finally give us the happiness and satisfaction we’ve waited for. This year, 2017, it’s going to be better because we will make it so.
Wait. Didn’t I say something like that at the start of 2016, and here I am, complaining about that year the same way I complained about 2015. If the year ahead follows precedent, then I’ll be saying the same things about 2017 that I’m saying now about 2016, despite the optimism I project today.
So what then? Every year runs by the same and nothing ever changes. Why? Maybe the problem isn’t the year. Maybe it’s us. The year might change, but we remain the same, bringing the old baggage along with us that we had last year and the year before. The problem isn’t that our circumstances won’t change, but that we won’t change.
So then, let’s resolve to try harder this year, to be healthier, enjoy life more, pursue pleasure, be more open with others, get counseling, and try to read through the Bible this year. Yes, that’ll fix it. If we can’t grab the year by the lapel and make of it what we will, then let’s grab the only thing we have power over and drag it into the light of a better tomorrow.
Wait. Didn’t I say something like that at the start of 2016 too? Didn’t I leave behind another set of broken New Year’s resolution in 2016? And if 2017 follows precedent, I’ll be ending it mourning the set of resolutions I made today.
Every year, we say the same things and make the same fatal mistake. We assume that we can make our lives better by sheer willpower and every year, we fall short. We might be able to imagine a better world, but it seems none of us have the power to make it a reality.
This year, I’m not having it. I refuse to allow myself to deceive myself all over again. So what do we do with our hopes and fears, our desires and anxieties, our let-downs and our triumphs? Well, it’s only been a week since we celebrated the answer to that question. “God with us.” On Christmas day, when things were darken and as the death of winter pressed in, God burst into our reality, changing it forever. We can’t grab 2017 by the lapels. We can only cling to Christ’s pierced side as he leads us into a new year. And only he can make the year truly new, a place where life is born, a place where we can meet him better, a place that he restores to himself. So instead of resolutions, let’s offer a New Year’s prayer, one we pray every day and wait to see the ways he decides to show up and make our lives new.