It is 2014 and I am happy to be alive to see another year (because, well let’s be honest, the alternative would be not so great)! In light of the new year, I am not going to use any of the usual trite, ridiculously over used and over meme-d (that’s those pictures with the words that all your friends post on social networks) sayings like “new year, new me” or ask “what’s you resolution?” But, what would a new year be without reflection, introspection, thanksgiving for past blessings, and thoughts of the future?
Upon reflecting on what this season means, my initial though was WHY? Why do people celebrate the New Year? Where did this come from?
I found that celebration of the New Year has its roots in ancient government, Christianity, and culture, with traditions dating back to about 2000 BC. Around that time it was celebrated on different dates based on the calendar used by the particular culture. Many chose dates in mid-March 1 based on the beginning of spring. Celebrating on January 1 began around 153 BC. This was the date that Roman officials took their posts (a tradition that pretty much continues today in American government), and in 46 BC Julius Caesar declared January 1 the official beginning of the year and a time to honor the Roman deity, Janus, after whom January is named. There was a slight departure from this in Medieval times, but there was a resurgence in honor of the adoption for the Gregorian calendar (the calendar we currently use) and the Feast of Circumcision (the day which baby Jesus was circumcised), which was honored because it was the first time that blood was shed, by the man by whose blood God would cleanse all sins. Nearly all New Year’s traditions include elements of partying, feasting and ritualistic elements honoring elders, spirits, deceased family members, and/or deities.
Ok, you may be wondering how any of this relates to your life? More importantly, what does God have to say about it and how does this relate to your walk with Him?
When I started thinking further about New Year’s and reasons why people celebrate it, I came to a simple conclusion: IT IS ALL IN YOUR HEAD. This is not to say that celebrating the New Year is a stupid tradition or that it’s not “real,” but it is all in your head. Celebration of the New Year stems from our thoughts—thoughts of hope, which God put into all of his creations. We are inherently hopeful and because of that hope, we believe in what newness (a New Year) may bring. This is why we celebrate.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Hope is always mentioned in terms of the future, because it is basically anticipation or expectation. My sister’s dog, Kobe, is the most hopeful creature that I’ve ever seen. Despite the fact that he is rarely given human food (especially by me), whenever I eat at my parents house he sits patiently in front of me, seemingly with the thought in his head: “today is going to be the day, and this food Is going to be amazing!” He watches the smallest of hand gestures in anticipation of what my meal may bring to him. Like Kobe, our hope lies in the thought or the expectation that we will encounter something new that will be better than what we’ve had or experienced in the past. In the past, Kobe has been given a whole lot of nothing; maybe a bone or scarp here or there. Yet he clings to his hope. Hope is something that God wants for us. Jeremiah 29:11 said that God wants to give us hope.
The thing about hope is that it is hinged upon OUR thinking. That is why it is important that in this New Year, we seek God so that he may renew our minds so that we may continue to be hopeful not only at the beginning of the year, but throughout. Hope and positivity go hand in hand. On our own, it is hard to continue to be hopeful that good will come when we are weighed down by circumstances and faced with situations that seem hopelessly dim. But God renews us when we need it most, refreshing our minds, pushing failures and hurts into the back of our minds and restoring hope into its rightful place at the forefront. Romans 12:2-3 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect…Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
|“But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” Romans 12:2|
READ ROMANS 12
God wants to transform you into the person that he wants you to be this year, but in order to do so you have to allow Him to change your thinking. I remember, not long ago, I did the whole “college experience.” I went to parties and of course drank. But after a while, some years of drinking quite a few nights every week, I started to drink more when I went out and then it got to the point where every time I drank alcohol I would get really uncontrollably sick. I remember doing this often. Drinking and then throwing up for hours throughout the night/morning. Me being hard-headed, I would try different things on different nights to see if maybe I was just drinking something that did not agree with me. I started telling my friends that maybe I was allergic to vodka so I would try tequila tonight, or maybe I was allergic to both of those so I would try just wine the next time (haha!) and I kind of started believing that it was really just an allergy. I started getting a little sad thinking, what would I do when I went out with my friends now if I couldn’t drink?! I would be bored, boring and not fun! Then one day I went out and drank only a few glasses of wine, nothing that I would think would have ever made me sick in the past, yet again I was in the bathroom all night basically throwing up really bad.
That’s when I realized that this was sign. God was trying to take me out of a place where I didn’t need to be. A place that was hopeless and negative, where I did tonssss of stupid things all in the name of “having fun.” He renewed my mind, causing to see that I didn’t need to drink to have fun because there are other fun things out there! And that I didn’t need to conform to the ways of the world by partying in order to have or to keep friends, and that if they expected me to do so I didn’t need them anyways. He showed me that I wouldn’t have much hope for a future if I kept down the road I was headed!
The thing that I want to impress upon you for the first post of the year is that God wants to renew your mind. He wants to take away the hurt, sorrow, and the burdens. He wants to restore you to a place abounding in hope. At the start of this year do as Romans 12:3 suggests and take an honest evaluation of yourself. Not of the way you look, how well you are manicured or dressed, but evaluate the things that matter—your heart, soul, intent, expectations, and your relationship with God. For me, this means fully confronting my desire to control those around me and get what I want in 2014, and trading my self interests for the interests of others and for the things of God.
Think about whether you’re the type of person that people put up with or genuinely want to be around. Let’s make a conscious effort to be hopeful by thinking good thoughts towards ourselves, towards others, and towards every situation that we encounter. There is power in our thoughts because they dictate our words and our actions. The Bible tells us that we reap what we sow. When we sow anger, discontent, competition, gossip and hate, we also reap them. But when we sow positivity, joy, friendship and love, those things make their way back to us ten-fold, allowing us to be in good spiritual health (which transfers to good mental, physical and emotional health) and helping to mold us into the people that God wants us to be.