By the time you are reading this article, the end of 2011 will be upon us. As we say goodbye to the old year, we say hello to the new one. New is good. At least that is what we were thinking when we opened all those Christmas gifts a few days ago. The new electronics worked perfectly right out of the box, right?
The tradition of the New Year’s Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.
|Janus...a two faced Roman god.|
Was January named for him?
Janus was the Roman’s two-faced god!As time went on, New Year’s Day moved from December 25, to March 25 and back to January 1. The tradition New Year’s Day falling on the first day of each year was firmly established by the church by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century, when the Gregorian calendar was introduced. We continue to use that calendar today. Um…and we continue to make those resolutions on January 1 too.
We are people who cannot look into the future like Janus was thought to have been able to do. We only have the past to consider. Looking back prompts us at times to make resolutions that we hope will change us for the better.
You may be like many people who have chosen one of the most popular resolutions for 2012: lose weight, stop smoking, save money, get fit, all in an effort to improve your life.
Jesus encouraged his disciples with ways to improve their lives. In the gospels Jesus said blessings come from having and developing the gifts of the Spiritual life: being pure in heart, merciful and making peace with others to name a few (Matthew 5).
What resolution can you make this year to become purer in heart? Can you meditate and reflect more? Perhaps journal about your life? Devote yourself to prayer and studying scripture? Take time for God to speak to your heart, to heal your heart, to fill your heart? Attend worship every week?
And what about becoming more merciful? What resolution might take care of that? Lending a hand in a new ministry at church? Working as an elementary school mentor? Reading books about political, economic, racial or gender issues? Being a volunteer.
Peacemaking. I can think of a few things to help us be better peace makers: Thinking before we open our mouths. Listening. Speaking our words with love. Helping our neighbors. Stopping before we gossip, slander or fuss. Trusting our brothers and sisters in Christ for the best of God in them. Voting.
If you are like some folks I know who say, “I don’t make resolutions, so that I don’t break them,” then the act of intentional improvement is not for you. So what if we break a resolution towards improvement? Isn’t it better to have at least tried?
I believe each of us are given Spiritual gifts, the capacity to love like Jesus loves, to help others, grow in faith, speak the truth, and witness to our relationship with God. But if we never try to cultivate these gifts, I believe that they lay wasted like so much Christmas paper.
This year I encourage us all to do like the store owners do on December 31, take inventory, and see what we are lacking for the coming year. God has everything we need to make changes for our better. All we have to do is go to God, and God will help us whatever that need is. May your resolutions and your new year be pleasing and glorifying to our God!
Happy New Year!