I have a sort of love/hate relationship with New Year’s Resolutions. OK, really it’s mostly a hate/hate relationship. In the interest of full disclosure, I will fully admit that most of my discomfort with them comes from my inability to keep any of them. But even before I break them I have a hard time coming up with what seem like appropriate challenges. I seem to either set the bar way too high - - like promising that THIS year I will not go to bed until every dish in the kitchen is clean and put away, or way to low - - I’ll keep brushing my teeth at least twice a day. Last year a childhood friend of mine resolved to drink more coffee in 2010. She reported this month that she is certain she achieved her goal and is taking on the consumption of chocolate for 2011. Those are some decadent resolutions I might be able to get behind.
Unlike my friend, though, New Years’ Resolutions are usually about self-improvement. Any regular at the YMCA exercise classes can testify to the good intentions of New Years’ resolutions. My favorite aerobics class is FULL the first three weeks in January of all the people who think that this year exercise is going to be a priority. But by the end of month, attendance has dwindled back down to just us regulars. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with keeping resolutions.
This year I’ve been thinking about resolutions in a new way, though. It’s generally a secular thing, right? But it falls right in the middle of one of our most important Christian seasons. We’re still in the middle of the twelve days of Christmas. Sure a lot of folks have already taken down their trees and decorations, but it’s still Christmas! I was proud of my 5 year old daughter the other day when we were at Target on only Dec. 26. She looked down the aisles and said, “MOM! They already have their Valentines out. Don’t they know it’s still Christmas?” It sure is. It’s still Christmas
So, what if we look at our New Years’ resolutions in the light of the Christmas season. During Christmas we celebrate the most precious gift the world has ever been given. During Christmas we celebrate the coming of God to live among humanity. During Christmas we celebrate the love, and the grace, and the peace of Christ that brings light into the dark world, salvation to sinful and broken people. During Christmas we celebrate that God’s promises are not just for the Israelites, but in Jesus God’s promises are given to the whole world.
And right there in that statement, I think, is the key to a new understanding of New Years’ resolutions. Maybe those of us who fail at keeping them, myself definitely included, fail because our view is too narrow. It is only on fixing MY life, making MYself better, doing things for ME. Self-improvement is not necessarily a bad thing, but self-centeredness definitely is. It is a fine line between the two that can be very difficult to balance. However, one thing I have learned is that often are greatest strides in self-improvement come not when we’re consciously trying to do something for ourselves, but when we’re trying to do something for others.
Maybe our New Years’ resolutions should be less about us and more about others. Maybe in resolving to share our gifts with others the way God shared the greatest gift the world had ever seen, we will find ourselves growing closer to God, closer to others, and closer to the person God has created each one of us to be. That right there is just about the best self-improvement I can imagine. That right there is a New Years’ resolution I think I can get behind.
I’m willing to give resolutions another try this year, but with this new twist. Like the magi offered their gifts in worship of the child Jesus, I will offer my resolutions as a gift to honor and worship God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, may God bless all of our efforts and through them bring us closer Christ.