The new year has come around once again and with it, promises of something new. Maybe with the turning of the calendar you exhaled thinking, wishing, hoping, even praying that 2015 will be better than 2014. Maybe as you turned the calendar you were excited, full of anticipation, even giddy because 2015 is the year something big is going to happen for you. Maybe you fell someplace in between those two sentiments. I did a bit of research on resolutions and wanted to know some of the most popular resolutions made as the clock turns from 11:59 to midnight on December 31.
Of course, the most popular resolution made usually revolves around personal health. Losing weight, going to the gym (or working out more), eat healthier, stop smoking or stop drinking. After personal health, it seems that the resolution to better our wallets is quite popular. People desire to save money, get a better job, diversify investments, or get out of debt. Then there are other resolutions that have an end goal of a “neater” lifestyle: clean out that closet, donate old clothes, get organized, volunteer more, spend time with family, and on and on. The average new year’s resolution is kept for about 2 weeks. 14 days–that’s it!
Did you make a resolution this year? In years past, not only have I made resolutions, but I’ve resolved that this year I’m really going to keep the resolutions I make. Not like years past, no siree, this year is going to be different. And I don’t have to tell you, friends, what ends up happening year after year after year. And of course, when I fail to keep my resolutions, the inevitable guilt that accompanies that is just terrible. Yes, I did make a resolution this year. I promised myself that I would do a better job at self care. This means that I will take my days off, honor the sabbath, treat myself to the occasional massage, and not be so hard on myself. I think it’s a good goal. I’ll be happy if I last longer than 2 weeks.
On one hand, I love the new year. It’s an opportunity to start fresh. It’s an opportunity to leave the past behind and declare healing and second chances. On the other hand, I hate the new year. It’s full of pressure to keep resolutions. The chance that I will be disappointed or let down (more so by myself than anyone else) is quite large. The uncertainty of what the next 360 days or so will bring is unsettling, at best. Often around this time of year, we hear people saying “keep Christ in Christmas” and maybe what we should be saying instead is “keep Christ in every day.”
Today’s reading from John is interesting because this is the reading that we get every single year on the second Sunday of Christmas (which is today). Unlike some of our other readings year after year, this reading remains the same. Every second Sunday of Christmas you can come to church and you will always hear the Gospel of John (the first chapter) being read. And if you think about it, it comes at a perfect time. When the entire world is making resolutions (that will eventually be forgotten about or broken) or when we struggle to even think about a resolution to make (because that also can be the case) we come to church and are met with something very counter-cultural (which isn’t weird at all–that happens all the time). We are greeted with a reading that serves as a reminder that no matter what resolutions we make (or don’t make), no matter if we keep (or don’t keep) those resolutions, and no matter if we even care about resolutions, one thing remains the same: the saving and redeeming Word of God given to us in and through Christ Jesus.
Just the first three words of today’s reading give me hope. “In the beginning.” In the beginning, before anything else happens. In the beginning before the break of day and the fall of night. In the beginning before I wake. In the beginning before I succeed or fail. In the beginning, at the start, at the center, before everything else there is a promise. The promise is not only Jesus, but the light that accompanies him. The promise is not only light, but that the light will always always overcome darkness. The promise is not only grace, but grace upon grace. Unlike us, God doesn’t make resolutions. As we already talked about before, resolutions have a history of being broken or forgotten. God doesn’t make resolutions because God never breaks a promise. Instead, God gives us a promise and that promise comes in the form of Jesus Christ.
What today’s reading gives me is hope. I know that no matter how this year goes, I won’t be alone. God already has something planned for me, and for you. And yes, it may not always be pleasant or fun, but because of the promise of Jesus Christ, I know that God will be with me and I know that God will be with you, no matter what. I know that no matter how many times I screw up, I will get a second chance. It will be like every day is new year’s day. I will have a chance to start over, start new, and try again. That goes for all of us. The cross gives us a second chance. And then a third. And then a fourth. And then….well, I think you get the point. When scripture says “in the beginning” that means that God has sent Jesus to be with us not only from the beginning of time, but from the beginning of our lives, and at the beginning of each day.
When the world is falling apart around us, when resolutions are failing, when the scales start tipping up instead of going down, when the balance in our bank account doesn’t change, when the clutter starts to pile up, when the jogging shoes sit collecting dust, and when the inevitable guilt settles in surrounding all of this, I want you to just whisper to yourself “in the beginning.” Because in the beginning, God claimed you. In the beginning, God said “I love you.” In the beginning God promises you light that no darkness can overcome. In the beginning, God promises you second chances.
If you must, absolutely must, make a resolution this year, perhaps you can resolve to remember that God loves you. Resolve to remember that you are enough. Make a resolution to love yourself as much as God loves you. Resolve to remember that you are never alone because Christ has been with you since the beginning. Resolve to remember that your sins have no power over you and that God will always, always have the final word and that word is always filled with grace upon grace.