I want to begin by wishing and every one of you a very Happy New Year. I pray for God’s blessings and favor upon you all this day, and always.
As many of you already know, the beginning of each year is like turning over a new leaf - a clean slate, if you will. We all need that clean slate to assure ourselves that we have put the past behind us - not that the past counts for nothing, but we embrace our inner desire to move in a different direction because the present path may not be quite what we expect of ourselves. In response, we use the New Year holiday as a benchmark to set resolutions for ourselves.
I applaud those who set resolutions because I do not think there’s anything necessarily wrong with it. I, myself, practiced coming up with resolutions each New Year’s Eve until a couple of years ago when I was less motivated about the practice. But I have friends and acquaintances who made great resolutions about habits that they wanted to change, but found them very challenging to do so, and then gave up all the gains they had made. In fact, research suggests that most people who have New Years resolutions give up by January 10th.
There are those who are very successful in keeping the resolutions they make, but there are those of us for whom the challenge becomes a little overbearing. This is because old habits, once entrenched, are very difficult to change; it is not like a light switch. We make a sincere effort towards taking up a new task, and an honest effort towards changing a particular habit, and when we find ourselves unable to change the habit we actually double down on the very habit we desired to change.
Jesus made a crucial observation in Matthew 12:43-45a when he said, “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Jesus makes a sound point about the inherent challenges of changing a habit, especially a bad one. So, where do we go from here?
From my standpoint, the gift of having a New Year’s resolution provides us with the opportunity to set ourselves on a positive path, a more honorable path. I have not, as yet, come across anyone whose resolution was to be more mischievous or dishonorable. To be honest, I didn’t think about a New Year’s resolution this year until a friend asked if I had one. My honest response was that I did not, but I can think about three things that I’d love to accomplish this year. The first is to be make myself more available to my family. Second, to pursue my doctorate degree by seeking to transfer from the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia to Virginia Theological Seminary. Third, to make the effort at taking good care of myself. Self-care is important if I am to be healthy enough to function effectively. That may mean picking up a new hobby.
Yes, although I did not have any resolutions, I came up with ideas which are not too tasking, which are doable. Now you know what my ‘resolutions’ are. What are your New Year's resolutions? How challenging are they? Are you thinking about the reconciliation that you have swept under the carpet? Are you trying to pick up a new habit, or to completely do away with an old one? If, perchance, you are transported to January of 2020, and given the chance to look back, what do you think will be your biggest accomplishment in 2019?
Until I hear about your resolutions, I wish You A Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.