New Year’s, a day of rest
As the end of the holiday season nears, I hope that you will be able to pause and consider the meaning of the final holiday, New Year. New Year’s Day is not a religious holiday and by all accounts it is the world's most celebrated public holiday. It is wise for us to consider what it is that we are celebrating.
While most holidays call us to reflect on the past, New Year’s is unique in that it also has us look to the future. We see this in the New Year’s resolutions that we make. With the new year, we often stop to consider what we would like to do differently in the coming year.
Some are simply looking forward to a reset. For them, 2013 had few highlights and they are hopeful that 2014 will be better. Others look forward to the new opportunities that the new year promises. Maybe they are expecting the birth of a first child, or a new home or car, or maybe an expected engagement or marriage. We understand these New Year hopes; we are likely to have some of our own.
However, as Albert Einstein is quoted to have said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If we are expecting a different outcome in the New Year without changing the lifestyle patterns that have led to our current trials, we are being unrealistic. If I want to lose 15 pounds in the New Year, it will mean that I will need to change my lifestyle. What will we need to change in order to bring these New Year hopes into a reality?
For some, the challenges of change can bring a general sense of hopelessness. They are hesitant to even dare to hope for change because they feel that they could not bear the disappointment should their dreams not be realized. If that is you, James offers these words of encouragement, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) If you need hope then ask God.
This advice may seem simplistic, but I have found that the hope that God extends to us in Christ is far superior to anything the world has to offer. Over the last few months we have been inundated with ads telling us that what we need is stuff, but stuff cannot bring us the lasting contentment that we need. Are you skeptical? Has your contentment level increased since Christmas? Have all your needs been met by the presents you received so that you have no wants? It is unlikely; I have found that this kind of contentment comes only from God.
Jesus warns us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6: 19-21) Christmas has become a confusing season that encourages us to look away from the child in the manger that brings us hope and to instead look at the things that will disappoint.
Many will find themselves driven to bring change in the New Year, but it seems that the harder we strive to bring change in our strength the more empty we come up. The Bible tells us that there is a better way; we need to learn to rest. By resting, I do not mean to sit on the couch doing nothing. I mean for you to rest from your personal righteousness. Striving for personal righteousness it is just fancy words for self-righteousness because it is about either what I have done or what I must do.
Hebrews 4 calls us to a better way, for us to enter into the rest that Jesus brings us. Hebrews tells us that just as God rested from his works of creation on the seventh day, so we too are to enter the rest from our works of personal righteousness so that we may rest in the righteousness that Christ has accomplished for us. As we enter this rest, we find hope, a hope that will not disappoint us. This New Year I pray that you might resolve to know God better by studying his word and learn what it means to enter His rest.