Thursday, December 31
New Beginnings: Resolution or Revolution?
As New Year’s Eve approaches, it can evoke feelings of anxiety in many of us. Looking back over the events of 2021 we see that the world has continued to reel from crisis to crisis, both in the natural and man-made world. It is easy to feel nervous about what next year will bring. Most of us can remember the hype which accompanied the arrival of the year 2000, when there were many predictions of disaster as the clocks moved towards midnight. (I still have the emergency wind-up radio which I bought in preparation for the power system to crash, a non-event if ever there was one!) Of course, we know that the season of Advent marks the beginning of the church year, but it is hard to ignore the secular calendar. I must confess, I have never been a great fan of big bash New Year’s parties, preferring to see the year in quietly with loved ones, with a cosy fire, a glass of wine and a favourite movie. The few parties I have attended over the years often left me feeling hollow, and the merriment always seemed forced… but perhaps that’s just me.
Many people feel the need to make New Year’s Resolutions on January the first. In “normal” times Gym memberships sky-rocket with well-intentioned folk who vow to get in shape, and lose unwanted pounds, but by February attendance has dropped off to previous levels. Do we really need a calendar to change our behaviour? After all my years as a student, and then a teacher, it was always the new school year in September which had the sense of a new beginning for me. Just the thought of cracking open a pristine new exercise book would fill me with delight, but inevitably this would only last until the first scratching out or ink blob spoiled the page. Part of the problem with resolutions is that they depend upon the resolve of the person making them and so are almost always doomed to fail.John Keble’s hymn “New Every Morning Is the Love”, we sing, “New mercies each returning day, hover around us while we pray; new perils past, new sins forgiven, new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.” In other words, a brand-new start. That sounds pretty much like a revolution to me, and preferable to a flimsy personal resolution.What if, instead, we thought of them as revolutions? One definition of revolution is any fundamental change or reversal of conditions. That suggests that it is not a solitary situation. What if we allowed God to be part of the process of change? There are countless examples of people in scripture who underwent profound changes when God called them to action and to a new beginning: Abram became Abraham when he obeyed God’s call to leave his home and travel to Canaan; Joseph’s new beginning began when he was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers; Moses reluctantly took on the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. As we know, his new beginning was long and painful, but God gave him the wherewithal to get through it; in the New Testament Mary was given a new beginning as the mother of Jesus; Simon received the name of Peter in his new beginning as a disciple; and Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle when God changed his heart. Perhaps the most spectacular of all was when the apostles were forever changed and re-newed at Pentecost. Of course, most of us will not be chosen by God to play such leading roles, but we are all able to discern God’s will as we deepen our relationship with him. There may not be a burning bush, or an angel’s visit, but with prayer and scripture, God will guide us. Instead of waiting for December to turn to January, what if we considered each new day as a new beginning regardless of the calendar month? In verse two of
Happy New Day!Prayer from the Church of England Book of Common Worship:
The night is past, and the day lies open before us.Let us pray with one heart and mind as we rejoice in the gift of this new day. So may your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you, now and forever. Amen