I have to admit that we are coming upon one of my favorite times of the year. I know that some people get the after-Christmas blues, but that has never been my experience. The stress of the holidays is over, and we start a brand new year.
January always feels like a very fresh month. I have fresh calendars full of weeks I haven’t used yet. The days are oh-so-slowly beginning to lengthen, and now that Daylight Savings Time starts in early March, that really does mean something. The stores have loaded up their sales tables with merchandise from 2011 to make room for new things in 2012. Even the bareness of the outdoors, stripped of leaves, flowers and Christmas decorations, has a kind of freshness about it. Gardeners and farmers have already been preparing for planting in the spring, and the trees are hibernating to prepare for fresh coats of leaves in late March and early April.
Seasons of rest are always seasons of anticipations. As much as we grieve for things we left behind in 2011 — jobs that we lost or left, family members that passed away, all the changes that mark the progress of our lives — January 1 is the moment that we turn around and face forward to the possibilities of the New Year. I know what I want out of the next twelve months. Right now, I have a dissertation sitting on my own 2011 “clearance table.” I’ve got one more chapter to submit to the committee and a conclusion, and I will be done. My year of possibilities hopefully includes graduation, and the prospect of moving forward in my career. And with the dissertation no longer hanging over my head, I begin to dream more emphatically of other projects and interests.
There is something about a New Year that encourages optimism. After all, whatever disappointments we experienced last year belong to last year. I am convinced that, while God’s mercies are new every morning, He is an observer of times and seasons. Landmarks are important, and that includes special days that are landmarks on the calendar. We can make resolutions every morning and pray for mercy to fulfill them, but New Year’s Day is an invitation to revisit the promises that God has made to us, the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit has invited us to claim as our very own. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,” and He declared it to people who had every reason to believe they had fouled up those plans beyond repair (Jer. 29:11). But they hadn’t, because they were God’s plans, and God always gets what He wants in the end.
We can approach 2012 joyously and fearlessly, not because we have resolved to be better people, but because God has resolved that we shall be better people. “He who began a good work in you,” writes the apostle, “will bring it to perfection at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6). Until then, my best hope is co-operation and obedience. So, as the clock strikes midnight, I will be meditating on God’s promises and not my own intentions, and I will certainly be trusting to His faithfulness and not to my own consistency.
Happy New Year!