Recently, a friend of mine recounted his experience with a serious illness.
He said that as he went through the various treatments prescribed by his physicians, he learned a new appreciation for the ordinary routines of life.
He learned how precious were even the simple acts of being able to eat and drink. He learned the importance of his digestive system. He learned how great it felt to have strength enough to walk.
In fact, he said there were mornings when he opened his eyes and realized he had in fact lived to face a new day. He learned literally to give thanks for a new day.
How blessed we are to have been given the gift of life. All the things we take for granted are sometimes never fully appreciated until we face their absence.
The beginning of 2019 can be an inspiration to us for thanksgiving. We were blessed in 2018, even though we may well have experienced difficulties and even tragedies.
But in the face of the past, we can look toward the new year ahead with the hope that Christ brings. Faith in Christ is always a faith towards the future, toward tomorrow, and the new day that is always ours in Christ.
When Christianity became the official religion of Rome, the Christians kept New Year’s Day.
The emphasis was on fasting and prayer, aimed at living the upcoming year in accordance with the new life in Christ.
Soon, however, the new year celebration reverted to March 1 and the emphasis on spiritual things got swept away.
Beginning in the middle of the sixth century, parts of the church began to set aside Jan. 1 as the Feast of Circumcision, commemorating Christ’s circumcision.
As with other Jewish infant boys, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. The Roman church did not accept this feast day until the 11th century.
It was finally in 1752, when Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar, that Jan.1 again came to be recognized and celebrated as the first day of the year.
The tradition of setting personal resolutions at the beginning of the year is good if the resolutions are for self-evaluation and renewal.
These days, Dec. 31/Jan. 1 continues to be a time dedicated to more godless indulgence than to the meditation on God’s Word.
But many also see it as a divine opportunity in the longstanding practice of making resolutions and setting aside of persons and things for God’s purposes.
With or without such historical understandings, many have taken New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as God-given opportunities.
They take at least a few hours to reflect, pray and dedicate themselves anew to the Lord, whether at a midnight service or in private, with a pen and journal in hand.
The foremost consideration each one must resolve to recognize is that without God’s help, we are unable to do anything.
Therefore, we should humbly pray that by God’s grace we would be able to keep all our resolutions. We should not make resolutions with the expectation of breaking them.
Each week, we must do a self-check and sum up how we are doing and seek God’s help in the process. In that way, resolutions can become our driving force.
Advent and Christmas represent the start of a new year in the church.
But no matter how often we remind ourselves of the liturgical calendar, we can’t help thinking of Christmas as coming at the end of the year.
After all, the whole culture around us is built upon an annual calendar that ends on Dec. 31 and begins on Jan. 1.
Christmas is such an important celebration that the Christians pull out all the stops. But is Christmas an ending or a beginning?
When is an ending a beginning and when is a beginning an ending? Is God the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
Or is He the God of “Behold, I make all things new?” Remember, the Word was at the beginning …with God …was God.”
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This Word is still among us.
Everything that is and everything that was and everything that ever will be springs from the Word.
Is the Word the beginning or the end? Is it past, present, or future?
But then, every beginning is an ending and every ending is a beginning. The calendar marches relentlessly onward, but each Christmas dawns as gloriously new, filled with possibilities and potential.
God calls to us anew every day. And though our Christmases are many, each time it comes around we meet the Christ again.
In God’s wondrous scheme of things, beginnings and endings are blended.
Past, present and future are merged together to constitute what we understand to be pieces and fragments of the eternal life.
Christ calls each one of us to commit to discipline and prayer in becoming conformed to His image.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians: “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor.3:18).
This New Year, let us resolve to become a person committed to a sanctifying transformation as we bring every emotion, thought, and action in line with the Word of God.
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