By the time you are reading this article, a year will have ended and a new one, 2018, will have just begun. But whether you have already started or are just now considering it, contemplation of the New Year ahead requires some needed preparation on the part of Christians.
How do you prepare for the New Year? Well, here are some interesting New Year’s traditions from around the globe as reported in Daily Infographic, “New Year Traditions from Around the World” (12-31-2014), that speak of how some people prepare and celebrate the incoming New Year:
- In Siberia it is tradition to dive into a frozen lake while holding a tree trunk, which is placed underneath the ice.
- In a traditional festival from Burma, people splash water on one another to start the New Year with a purified soul.
- Armenian mothers bake special bread that they knead with good luck and good wishes.
- In the Philippines homeowners open all their doors and windows on New Year’s Eve to allow negative energy to leave and good energy to enter.
- Spanish tradition holds that eating 12 grapes just before the clock chimes midnight will bring good fortune for all 12 months of the upcoming year.
- One New Year’s custom in Russia is to write a wish for the upcoming year on a piece of paper, then to burn the paper and place the ashes in a glass of champagne, which needs to be consumed right before the New Year is rung in for the wish to come true.
- Residents in Johannesburg, South Africa throw old appliances and furniture out the window, representing the old adage “out with the old and in with the new.”
- Brazilians wear white clothing, a custom meant to bring good luck for the upcoming year. This is often accompanied by a trip to the beach to throw flowers in the sea while making a wish.
In America, we generally prepare for the New Year in a different but somewhat similar way as our friends around the world do (except for that Siberian thing of which I have no clue) by making New Year’s resolutions. Our New Year’s resolutions are generally about making firm determinations to end old, bad habits like smoking or drinking too much alcohol, or mismanaging money and to begin new, good habits like losing weight, exercising more, or reading the Bible more often. While all these are certainly good New Year’s resolutions to consider, I suggest we approach the New Year and accompanying resolutions with two things in mind:
- Reflect – To reflect is to meditate. In Psalm 143:5 David says, “I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” Reflect/mediate then on this past year. First, rejoice over the good things that have happened and the people who have enriched you, the life lessons you have learned, and even the ways God has stretched you and your faith during this past year. Thank Him for His faithfulness to you through it all in 2017 (Lamentations 3:22-23). Second, repent over those areas of personal shortcoming, failures, sins, relational hurts that need rectifying, and other areas needing improvement, all of which kept you from reaching your potential in 2017.
- Pray – First, pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) regarding what resolutions, if any, He would have you make for 2018. Second, pray for wisdom as to how you are to fulfill the goals God gives you. Third, pray for God’s motivation and strength to help you accomplish your resolutions. Fourth, pray that God perhaps will direct you to an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you in your pursuits. And fifth, pray that you won’t become discouraged when occasional failures and setbacks occur, but rather, allow them to motivate you further still to accomplish your God-given goals.
Go ahead then…reflect, pray, make and diligently keep those resolutions God gives you for this new year. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage” (NASB). Remember though, you can’t do it alone or in your own power. John 15:5 says, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” But you can accomplish all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13). So get to it!
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to what God has in store for me, my family, and MSBC in 2018.
Blessings from your friend and pastor,