I am excited about the prospect of a new year and the hope of overcoming this pandemic. As a kid, I was always so excited about New Year’s Eve. Staying up late, watching the ball drop, and eating junk food was an event I always anticipated with excitement. Now that I am older, it holds less appeal. I think, in some way, we all experience this decrease in excitement over a coming new year. It is not that we no longer see possibility, it is just that we have seen so many go by already. This letter is getting depressing fast. Let me explain:
Each year, time seems to move more quickly and we become more aware of how long term change in us and in the world is difficult to accomplish. We set goals around this time of year and we call them resolutions. We seem to think giving them a fancy name might help us accomplish something, but, if you are like me, our resolutions seldom see February. Change is hard. Even good change is hard. As we get older, time seems to go faster and change seems even more difficult. Perhaps this is why New Year celebrations do not hold the same joy for me as they once did.
I believe the problem is that the older we get, the more caught in our own will we become. We start to believe the culture’s message to us, that we are the center of the universe. We start to believe that we are responsible for and capable of making the changes needed in our lives and the world. We may even start believing that we understand the way things should be. In essence, we start believing that our power is the ultimate power. When we discover our powerlessness, we give into hopelessness.
A friend of mine, Rev. Tommy Ward, once said to me that powerlessness does not have to equal hopelessness. I think he really nailed our problem. We have started to believe that the hope of a New Year hinges on our power to change things. This was never God’s plan. Let me repeat for you and for me so that this is clear: The universe does not depend upon, or revolve around us!
Instead, we have come to know the One for whom it does exist. We have come to know the One around whom it all revolves. The Good News is that this Being loves us. This Being wants us involved even when we are part of the problem. This Being will not leave the universe unperfected. This Being came and lived as we live. This Being experienced powerlessness and even death. This Being also said things will not remain this way. I hope you understand that this Being is Jesus. Jesus does have a plan. Jesus is at work. Jesus does want to change us and the world. However, this happens not through our power, but through His power. Our duty is to submit. Our duty is to set our will aside and seek His will. Our duty is to let go of the lie of our power and seek His power.
So what does this mean in practical terms? It means that instead of setting our resolutions we should be asking in prayer what it is that Jesus wants to change in us. It means instead of devising our plans to change the world around us we should be asking Jesus how we can be part of what He is already doing. Lastly it means that instead of trying to save ourselves we ought to let the Savior do the work He longs to do. This year when the ball drops my prayer will be, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” This year I pray for the strength to see my powerlessness not as a weakness but as an opportunity to see the power of God.
In closing, I am excited again about this New Year. I am excited because, while I may feel powerless over war, hunger, disease, sin, and death, I know the One who is power. I have hope and I pray that when times are hard and we feel powerless in this coming year, we might remember Jesus and choose hope. Following is a prayer form The United Methodist Church’s Book of Worship for this time of year when we can renew our covenant with God. I hope you pray it in sincerity and find that God has been waiting all along.
O God, Searcher of all our hearts,
You have formed us as a people and claimed us for Your own.
As we come to acknowledge Your sovereignty and grace,
and to enter anew into covenant with You,
reveal any reluctance or falsehood within us.
Let Your Spirit impress Your truth on our inmost being,
and receive us in mercy, for the sake of our Mediator, Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Grace and Peace,