I like New Year’s celebrations. Despite some opinions to the contrary, I really am not so cynical as to not get some enjoyment out of the holiday. In fact, it really is one of the greatest celebrations we Americans share.
Health and wellness gurus, gyms, health food stores, and the like make it big by cashing in on the guilt and optimism surrounding this holiday. It is socially expected that everyone make at least one new resolution, and they most often focus around physical and emotional health and stability (eat less, exercise more, spend more time with the kids). Of course, while the general population (ironically) prepares themselves for incredible feats of self-denial by partying late into the night in order to watch a ball drop in NYC, the critics smugly note that by the end of the month, most resolutions will have fallen by the wayside and the dreamy-eyed ascetics will come to realize that their hedonistic tendencies are stronger (and much more satisfying) than the hard path they resolved to tread. No doubt the web is ablaze with cynicism about New Year’s resolutions and the petty and short-term changes that many will try to implement in their lives.
Nevertheless, I think it a definite point in favor of the American people that they even bother with New Year’s resolutions in the first place. At heart, we are not all immoderate hedonists, wildly seeking ever increasing debauchery; rather, we still recognize, however weakly, that our world is off-kilter, that something important is missing, and that satisfaction hasn’t come by buying into the forcibly offered mantra of consumerism. More isn’t always better. So we continue to struggle for improvement, for something other than the status quo.
Will it be found in a slimmer waist, in larger biceps, or in a committment to do a good deed every day? I don’t believe so. However, the desire for change, for improvement, for virtue is something that we should nurture and celebrate. If we can keep this desire alive, then perhaps (after many failed attempts) we will ultimately discover what it is that is really missing. So perhaps Jane discovers by the end of January that losing ten pounds hasn’t made her happier; at least she knows that she still isn’t happy and wants to find something that will fulfill her.
I think the clue for true fulfillment came six days earlier with the celebration of the Glorious Impossible–the Incarnation of Deity. God became man so that men could become sons of God. He opened a way of freedom from the bondage of sin, vice, and the lust of the flesh. He went even farther by freeing us to become perfectly conformed to His image; the image of God Himself. Not only does this holy-day provide the answer for what so many are missing, it (rather than a late night party in Times Square) also provides the real impetuous to make a resolution and keep it.
So bring on the New Year’s resolutions. Let our failures and dissatisfaction drive us to the One who gives us the power and life to obtain victory and complete satisfaction.
My only complaint is that we limit ourselves to one day of making resolutions and celebrating new possibilities. But then again, isn’t every day the beginning of a New Year?