Sunday, 26 December 2010

New Year Resolutions

View from the Vicarage – Village Newsletter

Top ten New Year Resolutions

The urge to start every New Year with a few resolutions seems undimmed. Determining to do something different, to turn over a new leaf, to wind back the clock and start again is, it would appear, as attractive as ever. I wonder – have you made any resolutions yourself, or, for you, are they only for children?

Ever since David Letterman included top-ten lists on his daily show and most probably long before, Americans have been obsessed with them. Some I find wonderfully comforting. For example, some guide books give the top-ten sights in every city. Ticking them off gives you the feeling you have seen the very best. You have achieved a milestone. You are successful as a tourist.

Sadly, the top ten resolutions are not as positive. Here’s one list I found in Pittsburgh:

1. Spend more time with family and friends

2. Take more exercise – get fitter

3. Lose weight

4. Give up smoking

5. Enjoy life more

6. Reduce alcohol intake

7. Get out of debt

8. Learn new things

9. Help others

10. Get better organised

All very laudable I’m sure, but most of them are of the ‘give up’ or ‘do less bad things’ variety. They don’t say how these difficult aims are to be achieved, or how to stiffen our feeble will-power. It’s not surprising therefore that few of these kinds of resolutions last more than 10 days.

The Christian perspective on the upper reaches of the list is fairly clear. Writing to the church in Corinth, where early Christians asserted their right to do anything they liked, St Paul argues: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” That means if we were created in God’s image, we are to honour God in the way we treat our bodies. Excesses of eating, drinking or alcohol and drug dependence dishonour our bodies and the mar its image of God.

As the list goes on though, it becomes more outward-looking. Broadening your mind. Volunteering. Using time more effectively. Simple acts of kindness. Caring about others, especially the vulnerable, rather than just looking out for Number 1. All this starts to sound like the gospel message. But in our own New Year resolutions, we should remember that the Christian gospel is far more radical than just ‘love your neighbour’ and do good to those whom you like. No – in Matthew 5 we are told to love your enemies, do good to those who treat you badly, give your coat to the person who steals your shirt, and give to the one who wants to borrow from you without any expectation you will get your money back.

New Year resolutions all have one thing in common. We believe they are achievable. With some effort, we can turn things around. Christian resolutions are not like that. Try this one: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Of course, you’d be crazy to adopt that one. It’s obvious you can never hope to be perfect through your own strength alone. The real Good News of Christmas is this: Jesus does not remain the baby in a manger, but becomes the Suffering Servant of Easter. His therefore is the strength, if you will grasp its grace, and not yours alone.

Happy new Year!
The Revd. Robert Wright 01296 661358 Church Blog:

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