I often wonder what to write about in the first blog of a new year. Arthur Caliandro used to laugh with me about the annual challenge of choosing a title for his first sermon in January. He said the sermons would be, “Beginning Again,” “The Art of Beginning Again,” “You Can Begin Again,” “New Beginnings,” “Starting Over,” “You Can Start Over,” “The Art of Starting Over,” etc. He and I would commiserate about how a preacher’s first sermon in a new year is always the same – only the titles change, and often then not by much.
The same holds true for the first blog, since for me blogs are basically sermonic essays. I look back over the years and realize I always say pretty much the same thing. Often I even employ the same biblical text. It’s from Revelation, chapter 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … Behold, I make all things new.” Then come predictable statements about resolutions, turning our eyes toward the future, letting go of guilt and seizing opportunities, dreaming new dreams, etc. The year may be new, but the themes are not. But, maybe that’s okay.
Perhaps there are themes that need to be recalled and refreshed ever so often. We don’t set aside Advent or Lent, saying, “We’ve already done that.” Instead, every year in Advent we remind ourselves of how powerful it is that God enters human history. And every year during Lent we remind ourselves of the lengths to which Divine Love is willing to go for us. That which was said needs to be stated again. It is worthy of ongoing consideration. I think the same is true with the traditional messages we hear or read at the beginning of every January.
Twelve months can be a long journey with more than ample opportunities to drift off course. It’s not just the annual resolutions to diet or exercise that get misplaced, but also the resolutions to be more spiritual, more charitable, more gracious, more loving, more fully alive, etc. The world crashes in on us come March or August. Priorities get pushed out of the way by momentary needs or personal crises. So, when January comes along, we need some motivation to step back, to assess, and to re-direct our living. That’s why Arthur’s titles were always pertinent, because we consistently need to be reminded that, in fact, we can begin again. Too often the other eleven months make us forget that.
So, with this blog I offer you nothing new or creative. It will sound like the “same old, same old” because, in truth, it is. But that’s the wisdom of early January. It is that wonderful moment when we have an epiphany: that life does not have to remain as it was. There are other options. There are new goals to set, new dreams to chase, new relationships to enjoy, new ways to live. If we are not happy with what we have been, we can become something else. We can listen to the advice of Michael Losier who wrote, “I attract to my life whatever I give my attention, energy and focus to, whether positive or negative.” January is a time to begin attracting the positive by focusing on it. And by exercising our faith, God will help us in that new resolution that leads to a new kind of life.
“Behold, I make all things new.” You’ve heard it before. But in January, it’s worth hearing again.
Happy New Year!