I don’t want to be contrary but talk about the new year never sits well with me. Yes, it’s a new year, I get it. One day it’s 2019 and the next day—and perhaps a few noise makers later—it’s 2020. The media likes to turn this into some giant significant occurrence as if flipping the calendar page changes anything.
But do you know what the new year actually brings? January. And the reality is that for most of us, January is squarely in the middle of our year. Nothing is new. We are doing the same things we did a week ago and will continue to do for the foreseeable future.
If you had a child in fifth grade in December, they are still in fifth grade in January. If you had a long commute to your job in December, you’re still commuting in January. Oh, here’s one I especially love in Boston, if the climate you live in is cold in December, guess what? It’s still cold, probably colder, in January.For many of us, January can be a struggle exactly because we are in the middle, and all the talk of new beginnings makes us feel inadequate and tired.
What we need in January is not a contrived fresh start but a real and faithful walk on the road we are already on, following the One who always goes before us, year-round.
One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 15. It’s a chapter about the work and power of the resurrection of Christ. Unlike flipping a calendar page, when you believe in Jesus and all that His life and resurrection means, then everything really does change.
Paul says in this chapter, if you don’t believe in the work of Jesus, then stop reading. You’re wasting your time; get out there and do whatever makes you happy. If this life is it, you’d be crazy to not maximize your enjoyment and success. Paul first says in verse 17, “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.”
When I’m about to enter a new year, the very last thing I need is a totally useless faith. I need hope. I need something so real that none of the manufactured feelings our culture offers can touch my joy that comes from this certain truth.
Paul then goes on to say in verse 19, “If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”
Well, are we to be pitied? Is our faith totally useless? Or is it real? If it’s real, then when we are in the middle of things, and when life doesn’t seem fresh and new, we must keep our eyes on Jesus and remember that the guilt of our sins is gone and our faith is of eternal value. We don’t need any pity because our life is unfolding exactly as the Creator of the universe—the One who overcame death itself—planned it to be.
Including His plans for our regular, cut-into-the-middle-of-our-year, January.
This month when the latest diet fad comes out, or the new styles are revealed, or the latest parenting techniques show you that you’re clearly ruining your children, you simply are called to be faithful. Faithful to Jesus. The One who sets the standard for the only new start that matters. And that new start was given to us the day we answered the call to follow Him. Paul writes later in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Interestingly, Paul was once again writing within the context of the resurrection and our future security with Christ. We become new; we get our fresh start because Jesus overcame death.
And yet, we still face January. Paul gives one last word of instruction in the last two verses of 1 Corinthians 15. He reminds readers that we still feel the brokenness of this world and this life; that’s sin: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”
But then Paul tells us how we are to proceed, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
This January we are called to be steadfast, doing our work, whatever it is. Because what we do in January is not done in vain, but rather in the service of the One who changes everything, including us, and calls us to follow Him.
About the Author:
Esther C. Baird is the Director of Women’s Ministries and Adult CE Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church North Shore outside of Boston. Her humor/parenting column, The Baird Facts, has been running for more than a decade in the local paper and she is the author of, Exodus to Advent: God’s Christmas plan for you and for me, which is available on Amazon. Esther, her husband, their two daughters, and their two Bernese Mountain Dogs try to embrace the winters of New England, but only the dogs really succeed. For more of her work please visit: www.estherbaird.com