A weekly Rector’s Notes Article, December 30, 2019
I have never made a New Year Resolution before.
I have (sometimes, likely not often enough) engaged in a very devoted Lenten Practice. I’ve made life changes based on events throughout my life, but I have never made a New Year Resolution.
Perhaps it’s the little bit of cynicism I hold that prevents me from engaging in this practice.
Perhaps it’s the very public, performative nature of it all.
Perhaps it’s because everyone seems to fail at them (I mean, it’s how basically every gym ever has found financial stability).
Perhaps, it’s simply because it is too secular an event.
The New (calendar) Year does not seem to really coincide with anything important in our church life (except on those rare years when it happens to fall on a Sunday, next time in 2023). It falls roughly half-way between Christmas Day and Epiphany. The celebration, especially from the 31st of December leading into the midnight turning of the calendar, has basically no connection to the life of faith.
But, what if it did?
What if we could connect our celebration of the new year to something deeply held in our tradition and faith?
The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus dates back to at least 1530, with mentions of some type of celebration dating even further back to the earliest churches. January 1 [ed. note: January 1 is eight days after Christmas Day] coincides with the gospel story found in Luke 2:21, “at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”
This celebration of Christ’s holy name, affirming the prophecies that have come before, connecting this child to the life and mission that lays before him, is an important piece of our celebration of faith, and can inform how we approach this concept of a “New Year Resolution.”
Martin Luther encouraged “pure faith and confidence, and a cheerful meditation of and calling upon His holy Name”
John Calvin believed in reverence for the Holy Name and encouraged Christians to: “glorify His holy name with our whole life”.
If we remember January 1 as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, then we are tasked with reflecting on how we glorify that name “with our whole life.”
As we consider a New Year Resolution then, we are tasked with asking: how do I glorify the Holy Name of Christ with my whole life, how do I exercise and make known to all I meet my “pure faith and confidence,” a faith that inspires a “cheerful meditation,” a faith that calls me to and leads me to be better in this life, to make a greater positive impact on this creation through my faith.
When we begin to ask these questions, as I begin to ask myself these questions, then the concept of a New Year Resolution begins to come into focus.
So, I challenge all of us this year to consider what a New Year Resolution looks like for each of us if we consider the following parameters for any resolution we may undertake: how do I glorify Christ through my life? How can I glorify Christ (more clearly, more fully, more…) through my life?
If we are able to seek answers to those prompts, then we can be successful in changing our lives through a New Year Resolution.