It is the week between Christmas and New Years. We have begun to wrap up the traditions and practices associated with the biggest holiday of the calendar year and will shortly turn our thoughts to the next set of traditions and practices. These are, of course, associated with New Years Eve and Day.
Folks will be planning their parties and wracking their brains for resolutions as to what they will be doing different to be better people next year. As a tradition, setting personal goals for the next year makes sense and I like it.
Most of us resolve to lose the weight we gained between Halloween and Christmas, save more money, read more books, or some other thing to make ourselves better. “New Year, New You” will be the motto that dominates our thoughts and advertising in the coming days.
As much as I like the practice, there is a part of me that sort of sees it as ironic. It’s a little like Thanksgiving and Black Friday. One day we gather to thank God for everything He has provided. The next, we go out before the sun is up to buy stuff we think we need. The contrast between thanking God for His provision and watching internet videos of shoppers fighting over the last item in a “doorbuster” sale is stark and sad.
Though not as extreme, this is part of what I think of when my mind turns to New Years during the week between the two holidays.
You see, on Christmas, we celebrate God sending his Son to be born a man. Jesus’ specific reason for coming to live among us was because we are fallen people. We cannot, by our own strength and will, be perfect. We always stumble and revert to sin. Jesus lived a perfect life for us and took the punishment for our sins.
The Bible teaches that those who believe in and follow Him are forgiven and made new. Our souls are cleansed from sin, and God begins the process of making us more and more like Jesus in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We learn to obey God, love our neighbors, be charitable, and everything else that comes along with being Christlike.
That is why Jesus came. That is why Christmas is such a big deal. God makes us new. We accomplish that by faith and a relationship with Him.
New Years, on the other hand, is all about resolving to try harder to be better. That’s not bad. I think that God desires that we work hard to grow and mature.
The real trick is that we become like Jesus by following Jesus. Often, folks make the mistake that they become like Jesus by trying really hard to obey the rules as best we can.
In one case, it is effort and hard work. The other involves hard work, but the change comes about not because we try hard, but rather because God changes us completely from the inside out.
To summarize my traditional New Years themed columns: Aiming to be a better person is good and New Years is a fine time to start.
The best way to accomplish it is through Jesus, who is able to change us. To celebrate God’s gift of Christ and then try by our own efforts to be like Him is similar to celebrate owning a car to get around and then proceed to push it to work instead of driving it.
Jesus is the engine that makes becoming what God made us to be possible.
This article was originally published in the Big Sandy Mountaineer and is shared here with their permission.