Happy 2017, and God’s blessings on this new year ahead! It’s that time of year when many of us consider New Year’s resolutions, even if we don’t plan to take one on for the year ahead. I must admit that I am not a big fan of resolutions because they so often are unattainable. We set goals that are so high that the first time we slip up, we feel there’s no getting back on track. Nevertheless, I find that we, as human beings, do like to challenge ourselves.
The blessing of the Christian faith is that we have the reassurance that our mess-ups and our failures do not determine our identity. We have been called daughters and sons of God (John 1:12-13), and in our Baptisms, our identity is recreated through the Holy Spirit. No matter how often we fall short, we are reminded that forgiveness is freely offered when we turn our sights to God. We are offered a clean slate again and again.
One of the things of which we are reminded in a new year is that there is a clean slate, a new beginning. This past year has been a difficult one in many ways for many people. We are looking for a sign of hope, something or someone to help guide us. No matter what we face, our hope in this year ahead must lie in Jesus.
This does not mean we choose complacency in the new year. Choosing to place our hope in Jesus means we give our attention to the greatest commandment, love the Lord God and love our neighbors. Consider in the year ahead how you might live into this commandment more fully. If you choose to join a Bible study or Adult Sunday School, or choose to increase your worship attendance, you will likely find that you’ll grow in your faith and love of God. I find that every time I read Scripture, it is new and fresh, and there is always something I didn’t catch in my previous reading. I challenge us all to grow in our reading of the Bible. If you choose to add a service component to your week, you could join in the SOME ministry on a Friday morning in Washington, D.C., serving our homeless brothers and sisters. You will likely find they offer more than we could ever offer them. Any of these are good opportunities for growth in faith and love in the new year.
These goals are not mutually exclusive. Often, when we find a way to connect more fully with our neighbors in need or choose to grow in our faith through study, we will find that we grow in love of both God and neighbor. I pray that in this new year, we set our sights on God, knowing that whatever goals we set, as individuals and as a world, our identity is first and foremost in Christ. His love and His mercy are much bigger than the biggest goals we could set for ourselves. May we not forget this in 2017, no matter what comes our way.