New Year’s Resolutions or Being Committed to Christ
We have celebrated the birth of our King, Jesus Christ! We had a chance to celebrate with family, friends, share our gifts, and to be able to share God’s love with all of them. It was a time to reflect on Advent and what it meant to each of us. Now it is time to take down our decorations, store them until next year, and for many of us make this thing called New Year’s resolutions. I will speak for myself when I make these resolutions; I will guarantee I will not make it past the first month.
It is not easy to make New Year’s resolutions, and whose idea was it to make these kinds of goals or commitments? I will give credit to the history channel for this part of the newsletter because I think it is interesting to know where it all began. The custom of making New Year’s resolutions has been around for thousands of years, but it hasn’t always looked the way it does today. The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the New Year—though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted. During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Atiku, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor—a place no one wanted to be.
A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome, after the reform-minded emperor Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar and established January 1st as the beginning of the New Year, circa 46 B.C. Named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, January had special significance for the Romans. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
For early Christians, the first day of the New Year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Now popular within evangelical Protestant churches, especially African-American denominations and congregations, watch night services held on New Year’s Eve are often spent praying and making resolutions for the coming year.
Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to our God, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement (which may explain why such resolutions seem so hard to keep). According to recent research, while as many as 45 percent of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. But that dismal record probably won’t stop people from making resolutions anytime soon—after all, we’ve had about 4,000 years of practice.
We are going to explore for the next seven weeks how we can become more committed to Christ instead of looking at ourselves for the New Year’s resolutions. It is like a New Year’s resolution, but this one will allow us to be committed more than just once a year. It is a time in which we can grow and develop our relationship with Christ. It is a time to challenge ourselves as disciples of Christ. We need to consider what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and whether we are really committed to this journey. We are not talking about commitment--only in terms of accepting Christ and becoming a Christian--because I believe this congregation is already there. It will be about committing to making the way of Jesus our final concern.
So, together, let us begin our journey to commit to Christ and to be a disciple of Christ. I will be praying for each of you during this time because I know it can be difficult to make commitments and keep them.
Scripture for January 2019
01-06-19 Almost Persuaded Acts 26: 27-31 & Galatians 5: 22-24
01-13-19 Are You Ready to Grow in Your Prayer Life Luke 6:12-19
01-20-19 Guest Speaker: Ryan Klinck
01-27-19 Have You Read It for Yourself? 2nd Timothy 3: 15-17
In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Debbie Senters