Every year I do the same thing. On January 1st I decide to make a resolution, hoping to change or improve something about myself. On the first day I usually begin with a bang, excited about the opportunity of transformation. I start off well, but eventually the fire burns out and any well-intentioned hopes of betterment fade away.
It’s said that the tradition of making these resolutions began some 4000 years ago with the Babylonians. They were the first ones recorded to celebrate the New Year, although it was in mid-March when their crops were planted and not on January 1st. Apparently they made promises to the gods to pay back anyone they owed. If they kept their word, they would be blessed by the gods in the coming year. If they didn’t keep their word, they would fall out of the gods’ favor.
Most of my resolutions have been directed toward things like losing weight, eating better, reading more, fishing more, etc… So if history is true, I admire the ancient Babylonians for such a lofty resolution – to become debt free. I wonder if they also failed to follow through. I wonder if their well-intentioned hopes faded away. I wonder if the Babylonians were like most of us, finding it hard to keep those promises.
As we begin a New Year with promises we make to ourselves, maybe we should also remember that powerful promise from the beginning of John’s Gospel:
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD – THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS, AND THE DARKNESS DID NOT OVERCOME IT.
I find it helpful to remember that we are children of a God who knows the darkness and chaos of our world. With all of the uncertainty of the year ahead, we know that the light of Christ continues to burn bright. We may fail in our resolutions, but God remains faithful. And as receivers of this great light, we are then called to be reflections of faith, hope, and love for the entire world to see.
That sounds like a rather lofty resolution, yet it’s one God yearns for us to strive toward. We will not be perfect little lights. We will undoubtedly fail time and time again, but what a great way to begin a New Year. We begin 2017 knowing that Christ shines in and through us, and this light is brighter than any darkness that surrounds us.