It’s funny how much the much-ballyhooed beginning the new year looks an awful lot like going right back to normal. Lights switch off, decorations get packed away, gifts received mix into what we already had, and rush hour bogs to a standstill once more. Around the rectory we keep all the decorations up through Epiphany – actual, not observed: January 6. In and around the church, we keep the Christmas season through this weekend, the Baptism of the Lord. The poinsettias begin to falter, but the crèches continue to be a welcome sight.
The beginning of the calendar year is a time widely reputed to lend itself to reflection and resolution. This year, it would seem we could add to the alliterative list also Redskins, which is a welcome change. But when the television is off and we are left with post-holiday quiet, even only a moment or two, the changing of a calendar page can help us see the months ahead as a distinct and even different time.
What will be different this year? What can be different this year? Media mouths are full of suggestions about what is going to happen around us in the coming year, and changes we should undertake ourselves. But it dawns on me that you and I might have enough information and insight already in our own recent experience to make some decisions, and some changes.
Everyone around us just went through the cultural events Americans call The Holidays. Some of our neighbors expressly have no interest in either Christ’s birth or the associated celebrations, usually because of a strong belief that rejects that Jesus is God become Man. But even most of them did something during this cultural season derived from the Christian event, even if it only included having certain days off or going to parties. And that’s okay. In fact, it can even be a good thing, if it gives us a comparison by which to evaluate our own actions.
We all know folks who wrote Christmas letters or sent greeting cards, which they only do at Christmas. We also probably know people who went to church to celebrate Christmas, even though they normally do not. So, ask yourself this: what did I do differently because it was Christmas, that I don’t do at other times of the year?
Okay, that’s an easy one. So here is one that is like it, but a little bit harder: what did I do at Christmas because I know and believe in Jesus, that was different from what was done by those who do not?
So, those two questions are the reflection part: evaluations of the (recent) past. But now we need something for the future, what could be called a resolution. Start with this one: what of all the things that I did especially for Christmas, should I try to do also during the rest of the year?
And then there’s one that might give any of us material to start the year: what will I do this coming year because of Christ’s birth, that will be different from what is done by those who do not know and believe in Jesus?
Pope Francis said in his Christmas homily, Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. Too often, when the calendar year changes, everything that changed for Christmas, changes back to the way it was before. Why not make this the year when in your life, that is what changes?