That’s not a typo in the title – the New Years (plural), are indeed rapidly approaching. Since this is a two-month newsletter, the beginning of the Liturgical Year on the Frist Sunday of Advent and the beginning of the calendar year will both occur before we will publish a Messenger again. New Year’s Day makes many people think of how the year now ending has unfolded and how they might start a new year afresh. Many of us think about New Year’s resolutions, planning how we might improve our lives for the coming year. The range of such resolutions is enormous and covers many aspects of our personal lives, from improved health patterns or weight loss to giving up unproductive habits or practices or committing to new responsibilities. Such a mindset sometimes reflects a theologically sound concept – the belief that our lives are gifts from God and that one’s body is “the temple of the Lord.”
Perhaps those practices of reviewing the year past and seeking ways to make the coming year better might be more meaningful if we engaged in them when our Liturgical year begins instead of waiting for the day we change the dates on our checks. First of all, it would give us a one-month head start on the rest of the world. But, more importantly, it would also give us a different perspective on what our year has meant and what ways resolutions might reflect our Faith. When we view the past year with an eye to the ways in which we have honored God and served God’s people, we see things differently indeed. When we think about how we might approach the new year, we will see our opportunities very differently if our first consideration is how God might want us to act and to prioritize our use of time and talent and treasure – beginning with the acknowledgment that all that we have and all that we are comes from God in the first place! The gifts and talents we possess, the material and fiscal resources entrusted to us, and every minute of every day are all given by a gracious and loving Creator, who calls us into the ongoing co-creation of all of life. The ways that we resolve to improve our lives are opportunities to reflect God’s mercy and grace and glory in a world so desperately in need of that love.
On the other hand, perhaps a New Year’s resolution at the usual time makes more sense. That timing would allow one to use the time in Advent, already intended as a time of preparation and contemplation to prepare us for the coming of the Christ Child. A season devoted to such reflection could enhance the process of deciding how we, once again, renew our lives and our relationships with God and each other.
It doesn’t matter when one thinks about resolutions, or even if one does so at all. But it is important at milestone moments, like a new year at Advent and a new secular year, to take a bit of time and think about how our relationship with God is going – and, perhaps, to envision ways that it could be better. After all, this is the time of year we prepare for that child mentioned above, to see with new eyes a story that we know so well that it is a part of each of us.
In the midst of the craziness of preparing for Christmas, with shopping and decorations and parties and gifts, let us not lose sight of the greatest of gifts, those that come to us from that loving Creator – the gift of life itself, of the capacity to love, of family and friends, and of an Incarnate God who chose to come and live in our midst and share our lives in order to give us life eternal.
Here’s wishing you a blessed Advent, a very merry Christmas, and a happy and spirit-filled new year – both the Church one and the other one!
In Christ’s Love,