For my pastor friends struggling with the January newsletter article while it's still December, here's the beginning of a a sermon I wrote a few years ago, when January 1 was a Sunday:
It’s the first day of a New Year, and it is the time when we
make all those wonderful resolutions, well meant but seldom well kept.It was the Babylonians of 4000 years ago who
had the notion that a new year ought to be a time for personal renewal and
self-improvement. Their new year was in
the spring.We have the Romans to thank
for setting the calendar with which we are familiar.They named the first month after the Roman
god, Janus, who had two faces, one looking backward and one looking
forward.And that is what we all tend to
do at this time of year.The news shows
have been full of lists of the Ten Best movies, or the most important people of
the year, or the most significant photographs, and of course the most important
stories of the year, one of which you all lived through four months ago.
What will last year
mean for this year?We send each other
wishes for the New Year, hopes that all will be healthy and happy, and that the
world will be a more peaceful place. I imagine those thoughts were with
the Babylonians as well, if in a bit different form.They weren’t worried about spending too much
time on the Internet, for instance, but some things, such as repaying debts or
returning what we have borrowed or treating people better, go beyond time and place.
So what do we think of when we contemplate New Year’s
Resolutions?According to the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion,
the top 11 resolutions are:
Get a better job—I’m not sure if
this means more lucrative or more meaningful—I suppose it could be either
Be a better person—I find this one
especially interesting.How do we
do that?Perhaps we should continue
with the list and see if it draws any conclusions for us.
Lose weight—The Today Show claims
this is in fact the number one resolution among Americans.
Stop smoking—that’s always a good
choice, but probably one of the hardest to stick to.
Spend less money—in this culture
of plastic cards (credit, debit, special store cards), it can be very easy
to forget that actual money is being spent!
Exercise more—That’s on my list
every year.Last winter we even
bought an exercise machine for our house, but I still face the same
dilemma—finding the time to use it.
Improve health—many of the others
on this list could have this effect.
Get closer to God—Ah,
finally.The inner life is
addressed.But just at number