Yep, it’s that time again! It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone already. I’m still tanned from my last visit to the beach-it can’t be almost January! But just as the ghost of Christmas present dries up and blows away at the strike of midnight on Christmas Eve, 2015 will soon be but a memory. Some will have great memories of the past twelve months while others will still be living through the pain the year brought them. Whatever your story, you will likely be among the countless throngs who sum up the year and take inventory in an attempt to make the New Year better. And just like last year, you will wonder after another twelve months just when your plans veered off course.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am all for self-improvement, being a better version of me, and perhaps a bit smaller as well. We all tend to resolve to accomplish things that will make our lives better. I would bet that if you compared one hundred random lists of resolutions, the majority would have very similar and common objectives: lose weight, eat better, save more money, pay off bills, quit smoking, drink less, (or for some, more), reduce stress, etc., etc. The busiest week of any gym or fitness franchise is the first week of January. These are healthy and positive goals and I see nothing wrong with having them, at least on the surface. But this year I have to ask myself, what is the real value of these goals in respect to the world around me? Look at the list again, I want to lose weight, I want to eat better, I want to save money, and so forth. In being consistent with my faith and desiring to be a better Christian as well, I have to line up my list of resolutions against a master list that is provided each year in scripture, and one that never changes with time or the calendar.
Christmas is a time that temporarily for most, alters the usual inward perception to an outward one, making us more benevolence minded. We buy gifts for “angels” we’ll never meet, serve at the local shelter or food bank or maybe even adopt a family for the holiday. These are grand and caring gestures worthy of our efforts. But for many the charity outfit worn so festively just before Christmas is pressed and put back in the closet for another year the day after. I know as I am guilty and keep a closet full of barely worn charity outfits myself. I’ve always wondered why it is so easy to give of our time and resources for three weeks before December 25th, but so unnatural from December 26th on. Our focus at New Year tends to change from others to self, resolving to do all I can to make my New Year a better one for me.
The sum of my annual resolutions should be met with but one command, the same command Jesus gave His disciples when He said to love your neighbor, even as I have loved you! Simple yet profound, straight forward but complex. Love each other-support each other-provide for each other-rejoice and mourn with each other. In a world increasingly bigoted, hateful, intolerant and partisan, how can we possibly achieve a level of love that would ever resemble the same love that Christ shows, the “even as I have loved you” kind of love? What of our human efforts could ever be mistaken for that kind of supernatural, super human love?
On the surface it seems unattainable and unachievable and perhaps for some, an impossible undertaking not worthy of even attempting. While it may be true that our works of righteousness are “as filthy rags” compared to our Savior’s, the precedent has been set to take care of and notice the least of these. The same needs that are presented to us during the holidays exist 365 days of each year. Hunger doesn’t hibernate until the next Thanksgiving; the homeless don’t retreat to some unseen holding area for eleven months; the need for visitation in nursing homes and jails isn’t silenced at the start of a new year. The only thing that seems to change is me, my perception, my involvement and investment in others. This year the change I need most is the desire to bring change to others, which consequently will bring about eternal and valuable change in me in the process. This will be my resolution this year-God help me help someone else just as you would.
One parting thought as I submit this last post of 2015. This year many families, including ours, said goodbyes to loved ones they were not expecting to leave so soon. Death and tragedy is not reserved for the elderly, as we have seen played out once again this year. While an unexpected passing is cause for us to hold our loved ones a little tighter, we should always have the attitude that any day could be their last, or ours in an unpredictable world of disease and tragedy. As we strive to love each other a little more this year, please don’t forget to love on each other within your earthly family as well, bearing in mind that only God knows the number of our days. Make each day count, say what needs to be said, don’t be shy or stingy with affection and be foolish enough to be vulnerable with your family, your mates and your closest friends.
Thanks to all who have considered my thoughts worthy to follow this year. God bless and extend His grace to each of you in 2016 so that we may collectively draw a bit closer in reflecting His love to others.