I didn’t feel any different when I woke up yesterday morning, but it was on the dawn of a new year. The outside looked the same as always, if not a little bit windier than usual. My home and family all looked the same. My congregation was still in the same place with worship times the same as always and the same members, though we were a bit slim in numbers thanks to holiday travel. Still, it was a new year. The calendar had moved up one incremental unit; our world had completed another orbit on its timeless circuit around our sun. I’d have to remind myself to change the year I put on the only check I still write – our contribution. It was 2012.
I’ve heard too many sermons filled with a certain degree of cynicism directed toward our tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Many remarks are made about the arbitrary nature of the New Year. But I can’t help but look at the turning of the calendar as yet another opportunity to seek refreshment and renewal in my life. It’s seems that as I get older (and there’s another arbitrary number for you), I see more opportunities for growth and for good in the secular holidays we observe, and I find myself feeling more and more distant from the attitudes I had toward them in the past. Sure, most resolutions are left unkept, but does that mean we shouldn’t try?
In the midst of one of his most sorrowful pieces, David writes in Psalm 51:7-13:
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
David is confessing sin and pleading for forgiveness in these verses, recognizing how far he has fallen from God’s presence and begging for mercy. He calls for his spirit to be renewed, and he resolves to rededicate himself to following after and teaching God’s word. With renewal comes resolve. The two are inseparable. It only makes sense, then, as we reflect on the coming of a new year that we would want to resolve to better ourselves in some way. The question is one of meaningfulness. Can we resolve ourselves to be better in more than superficial ways? Can we have that same resolve David expresses in Psalm 51?
Romans 12:1-2 sees Paul also addressing renewal:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul says our minds are to be renewed, and that such a renewal will completely transform us as individuals. He also states that this renewal will be tested; it is not something that happens once and is finished. Our transformation and our resolve as followers of Christ will be continually strained, but we can remain perfect and acceptable in God’s eyes. There will be times that our resolve falters, and like David, we may fall away from God for a time, but the separation does not have to last. We can always pick ourselves up. We can always reach out to God for forgiveness. We can always seek renewal and refreshment from Him.
Whether or not you view New Year’s resolutions as a worthwhile activity, you can make every day a day where you resolve to be closer to Christ. Walking in His footsteps is an unending effort, but He is always there to help us. Our fellow Christians are always there to help us. So as we turn the page on another year, let’s all resolve to renew our spirits and to renew our efforts in His work. Drawing closer to Christ and reflecting His light in all you say and do is the best resolution you can make, and it’s a challenge you’ll spend every day of your life trying to keep. The world may look the same one year to the next, but my outlook on this life can change when I renew my spirit and resolve to draw closer to God.