Nothing changes on New Year’s Day

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It is common this time of year to make New Year’s resolutions. We commit ourselves to a particular project, to reforming a habit or to some other helpful lifestyle change. Popular resolutions include losing weight, paying off debts, saving money, securing a better job and getting fit. I read of a recent New Year’s resolution study in which 52 percent of the participants were confident that they would be successful in meeting their goal, but only 12 percent actually achieved it. 

We Christians add a spiritual twist to making resolutions, and we determine to grow and improve spiritually. Our reasoning for resolving to make lifestyle changes and committing to a more disciplined spiritual life seems to be that the start of a new calendar year is our chance to start over. It’s as if we think the New Year brings with it a clean slate.

But this isn’t true. We may be writing 2009 instead of 2008, but if we are honest with ourselves we know that the obstacles we encountered in our efforts to grow spiritually and to change old habits were not overcome with the arrival of a new calendar year. “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day,” as Bono wrote in his popular song New Year’s Day.

This New Year I am thankful that as followers of Jesus Christ we live with joy and celebration because there is a day when things really did change. That day is Resurrection Sunday. Because of God’s great love for all of mankind, he provided his one and only Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Resurrection Sunday is the day we were given the possibility of a clean slate before the Lord our God. We stand spotless before the Lord when we confess our sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. 

This month, on Epiphany, Jan. 6, we celebrate the founding of the Mennonite Brethren Church, a denomination born almost 150 years ago in the Ukraine among a group of “brethren” who were meeting for Bible study and prayer. They became convinced that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and its expression in believer’s baptism and communion are essential to one’s faith. And so they seceded from a Mennonite mother church that had grown cold to this truth. Some 50 individuals were charter members of the Mennonite Brethren Church, and today this group has grown to more than 290,000 Mennonite Brethren in 15 countries. 

The 18 heads of households who signed the document of secession were committed to a “genuine, living faith effected by the Spirit of God,” as they describe it. They understood the clean slate of Resurrection Sunday, and their commitment to discipleship has provided a framework for generations around the globe to find new life in Christ Jesus. 

I praise God for the resolve of our spiritual forbearers to be men and women who lived as Jesus taught, even when their commitment put them at odds with the established church and community structures of their day. As we anticipate celebrating in 2010 the 150th anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren Church, I pray that we will be bold in our faith and that we will see God move in new ways among our global Mennonite Brethren family because of it.

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