January 3rd, 2017 by Christopher Caudle
The promise of a new year, with new calendars, new resolutions and new hope is with us. This new year holiday presents everyone with a community approved and socially permitted space to let everyone start again. Start a new exercise regimen in May and your coworkers may raise their eyebrows. But even I could make a January 1 resolution and people would say "Good for you!"
Whether it is a work-related focus, a family-fueled commitment or a search for a new opportunity to serve, each new start seems apropos at the common starting line of the new year. To aspire beyond how things currently are and imagine how they might be different and better gives us and our neighbors a chance to start again.
I hope you can see how well we and our neighbors have heard and connected with this January low-risk gospel. "The new year offers us a new start if we just commit." And if we stumble, (or let our intentions lapse) there's always next year.
Before we look askance at this winter plan for better living, we should notice how rare it is to have a "community gospel" that includes roles for both our will and the mystery of things beyond our understanding. This echo of grace and change is worth noting and affirming. Here are two articles that point in each of these direction. The first describes helpful ways to approach resolutions, preparing the reader for strategic goals and success. The second records the culturally recognized list of lucky foods, designed to bring prosperity by means of the grocery store.
Followers of Jesus approach our lives with him with both determined engagement and mystery as well. While we may not be susceptible to believing that a plate of fried greens and ham (with vinegar) will guarantee the quality of the next twelve months, we do know that we are not in control of what will unfold over the next 365 days. While we may make commitments in our faith and spiritual disciplines for the coming year, we have lived long enough to recognize that spiritual growth remains significantly hidden and that ultimately only "God makes things grow." This doesn't diminish our role; it reframes it.
This is where the good news of faith in Jesus Christ takes the fundamental step above and beyond the good news of the new year. In the promise of Jesus Christ's incarnation, epiphany and Easter ministry, we are reminded that our new year's security rests in him. Not finally in the tenacity of our willpower or in the dexterity of our menu choices, but in the kindness of Jesus Christ, who offers a new start at any point, durable enough to withstand, forgive and strengthen us even in our lapses. What relief and what encouragement.
Like our neighbors, we look for a starting line that offers a new start, encouraged and supported (actively) by a community also committed to becoming more than they already are, in the recognition that there is more to this world than we can map or master through will or magic alone.
So, this weekend ask your neighbors about their resolutions and new year's customs. Listen for the good news they are hoping for: desires for their health, security and joy. Then, pray for an opening to begin sharing the good news of God in Jesus. But don't rush it. Let the fireworks fly and the Times Square Ball fall. Be an encouragement that there is indeed more to life than they are currently living. Remember that God is at work around them and in them and FOR them. Eat the Hoppin' John set before you with enthusiasm. Share your own hopes for the New Year. And keep praying. (Have you seen it yet? STEP together)
But don't rush. Remember, we have all year.
PS- Hope to see you Sunday, January 1. Our services will be at 8 and 10.