January 3, 2013 by Pastor Ben McIntire
The New Year has begun! This morning as I pulled into the parking lot of my YMCA, I was amazed at all the people who were up and at the gym before 6:00am. Like me, there are lots of people who are getting to work on their New Year’s resolutions to get in better shape, lose weight, and generally improve themselves and their lives.
Last night, my wife Monica and I watched the 2011 movie “New Year’s Eve” which stars tons of Hollywood big names like Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Sara Jessica Parker, and Hilary Swank. In the movie, Hilary Swank’s character, Claire Morgan, is in charge of the iconic New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square. But something goes wrong and the ball needs to be repaired before midnight. In that tense moment, she must address the crowds gathered in NYC and people across the nation who watch this event that symbolizes the New Year and a new start for our lives. You can watch the clip of her speech on YouTube at this link: http://youtu.be/D60lKmdAsDQ
In this speech, Claire Morgan gets at the heart of our deep, human desire for a fresh start, a new beginning to do better, to be better people, to right our wrongs, and to find joy. I myself love New Year’s Day for just this reason. My own goals this year are to focus on being more productive, to write more and better, to get back into training for a second triathlon this summer, and to spend as much time as possible with my toddler daughter and her little sister who will be born this April. I think of these as “traditional” New Year’s goals; things that are common goals for lots of people. But the most important goal I have, and one I hope many people will take up, is to take God up on the offer of a second chance.
You see, all to often the New Year becomes a chance for us to exercise our will power and to see what we can accomplish by refocusing our efforts. That in itself is great and important. Yet we need to be reminded that we do not live this life alone. First of all, we are surrounded by people who love us and care for us and about us and whose lives are intertwined with ours. And not least of all those is God! Think of it! The Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Giver of Life, is involved in the life of the world and of us and our seemingly mundane existence. We just celebrated Christmas, and are still in the 12 days of Christmas (I believe we are at “9 Ladies Dancing”) where we ponder the fact that God chose to enter into this world of darkness, sin, doubt, grief, suffering, and regret as a human being on a level footing with us. And he came, not to become our God-King and rule us with Divine Power, but as a baby born to humble parents in an extremely humble setting in order to show us that God’s power is humble enough for the lowest of the low and his love is for all people in all circumstances in all times and places. God came to bring life and forgiveness to a world that was lacking in both and out of mercy, to give us a second chance.
In her speech, Claire says, “New Year’s is about getting another chance, a chance to forgive, to do better, to do more, to give more, to love more. And to stop worrying about ‘what it’ and start embracing what will be.” That’s the message of the Gospel too, that Jesus has forgiven us and blessed us with a second chance, and even third and fourth chances and more; so that we can learn to live, love, give, and forgive.
Whatever your plans and resolutions are for 2013, I hope you will succeed in them. And I hope that you will remember that you do not strive for a good life, for love, peace or joy alone; but that you know and feel God’s presence in your life guiding you in all things. And should you find yourself stumbling, failing or falling–remember that Jesus loves you and is there to pick you up and help you begin again.
Dear God, thank you for this day, this New Year. Help me in my struggles to live my life according to your good will and purpose so that I may be blessed to be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.