As we begin a new year, chances are good that most of us have given at least some thought to New Year’s Resolutions. It may be that you have totally given up on the practice of making resolutions at the start of a new year because you have failed to follow through with plans for self improvement in years past. However, I would venture to guess that even the most cynical among us stands on the brink of this new year with at least a glimmer of hope that we will make positive progress in some area of our lives in 2020.
While I come to each New Year with some amount of disbelief and unpreparedness, there are some years when my shock level is simply beyond measurement. For example, I think back to the year 2000, when everyone was warning of cataclysmic computer crashes and the subsequent turmoil that would inevitably ensue. None of that came to be, of course, and life pretty much went on as it always had. But there was still this palpable trepidation prior to January 1 that some unforeseen reality would dawn that none of us would be quite ready to receive.
We’ve all felt the itch at some point to shake a gift under the Christmas tree that has our name on it to see if we can guess what’s inside. Or even more to the point, consider those times you’ve been involved in one of those “Santa Exchange” games where you draw a number and pick a present. Isn’t it the case that, more times than not, when your number comes up, you go for the gift that is larger than the rest? Packaging exerts a pull on our heartstrings that is hard to ignore.
I can remember the days when decorating for Christmas was a relatively simple affair – a lighted tree, a wreath on the front door, candles in the windows. That was pretty much it. Nowadays, it has become quite the affair with the aforementioned decorations accompanied by a host of other seasonal props. There are now companies you can call who will do your decorating for you, from stringing lights on your rooftop to arranging illumined reindeer on your lawn.
I don’t like darkness. I know some people do, but I prefer things to be bright and clear. The darkness scares me. It scares me because of those unknown threats that I can’t make out; and it scares me more because of the darkness that lurks in my soul. I don’t think I’m alone with this dislike. There are a host of others who join me in ruing this time of the year when the days are shorter and the shadows lengthen.
I dare say that there aren’t many of us who enjoy having to wait. Who among us has the patience to while away the hours when we have so many other important matters to address? And yet waiting is a part of life that we cannot seem to avoid. Whether it’s a checkout line or a traffic jam or a cue to enter an event, a good part of our emotional maturity involves learning how to handle those moments when everything seems to have come to a screeching halt.
When it comes to our thanksgiving, most of us do so retrospectively. We look back at what has taken place and we feel a rush of gratitude not only for what came our way, but also for what we were able to avoid. As the saying goes, “Some of the prayers that are answered best are those that are never answered.” At the time we may have thought we knew what was in our best interest, but in reality we had no idea what we were asking and we are blessed that what we hoped for never materialized. It might be a good source of spiritual discipline for you to make that kind of list as you “count your many blessings!”
I was never much of a fan of animated movies until my wife and I took our children to see Pixar/Disney’s Toy Story. Part of the film’s attraction was its touching chords from yesteryear of favorite toys and imaginative playtimes, but part of it was how the writers found ways to appeal to our quintessential hopes and dreams.
Prayer, as you know, is a powerful practice. When we go before God with the desires of our heart, we put ourselves in a place where God draws near to connect us to resources that are always sufficient for our need. You’ve surely experienced this divine help in your own life. Now it is time for us to call upon God in similar fashion on behalf of our church.
In a Halloween week it came to my attention that a false email account with my name attached made it into many church members’ inboxes. The FALSE account asked for a hefty sum of gift cards to be sent to me so that I could in turn pass them on to people in need.