New Year’s Day: A Time for Change?

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:1-2).

These two passages are among the recommended readings for tonight from the Book of Common Prayer. These verses seem quite appropriate for an evening when the world focuses on transition.

Revelation 21 speaks of a time of transition in the cosmos. The world as we know it is superceded—perhaps overthrown—by the eternal millennial reign of Christ. Granted, that is a much more drastic transition than the one we celebrate tonight. For me, New Year’s Day is a day to change calendars; in the days to come, I look forward to remembering to write the correct year on checks. But, except for the last two numbers of the date, there is little substantial difference between December 31, 2009 and January 1, 2010.

However, we tend to make a big deal about New Year’s Day. People are willing to stand out in the freezing cold in Times Square (in a crushing throng, with little access to restrooms or other comforts) just to watch a ball drop. Every media outlet seems to have its “year in review” presentation. There will be a big change when Christ returns, but many of us seek to make a big deal when the clock strikes midnight tonight.

The greatest hope for real change on New Year’s Day is something that can become so trite, I have virtually given up on it: New Year’s resolutions. The change of calendars reminds us to reflect on our lives, see which direction we have been heading in, and change the course of our life where necessary. Personally, I have stopped making New Year’s resolutions. They simply become a reason for self-criticism by December 31. I cannot think of a New Year’s resolution that I have successfully accomplished. The closest I have come has been those years when I resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions.

However, all the hype about New Year’s Day has forced me to look back at the last year. It has been a milestone year, when my family went through many changes. My son Daniel got married, and he and his wife Tanielle gave birth to my grandson, James. The family has grown. Some family has moved away. 2009 is a year that I will not soon forget.

Spiritually, it has been a time of transition as well. My involvement in the Brotherhood of St. Joseph has compelled me to a deeper commitment to prayer and to serving God by ministering to others. My relationship with Jesus Christ has taken on a new level of stability and consistency.

Now, if only my financial situation would improve as well! At least I have developed a new level of contentment.

I hope and pray that my spiritual life grows further in the coming year. I have enjoyed growth, but spiritual growth always seems to reveal areas in our lives that demand greater attention. The more you allow God’s light to shine on your life, the more hidden junk comes to your attention.

I can think of ways that my personal relationships can change in the coming year. I have some ideas for ways that I would like to eat better, or exercise more, or spend more quality time with my wife, or build relationships with my friends. As always, I want to devote more time to writing. I cannot merely look back at the past year, pat myself on the back for any improvements I see, and forget about it. There is still room to grow.

However, these are all things I have thought about throughout the year, and will have to actively pursue in the future. Most people blow their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January, and then make the same ones the following December.

Lasting change only comes when we make a daily commitment to it. Speaking of the hope of Christ’s return, St. John wrote, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). January 1, 2010 will arrive about two-and-a-half hours after I post this online, and will dissolve into history 24 hours later. The hope of eternity with Christ lasts forever, and provides a lasting incentive for real transformation in our lives. I hope and trust that, as I yield my life more to His Lordship, He will mold me to be the man he wants me to be.

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