New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite nights of the year, because it is marked by two special words: gratitude and hope.
The ending of the old year calls us to gratitude, even if we have experienced losses and tragedies. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:18). No matter what happens, nothing can separate us from the love of God. If we are alive and believe in the Lord, we have tremendous cause for gratitude.
The dawn of the New Year calls us to hope, even if we have fears. When Jesus visited Martha and Mary to console them over the death of their brother Lazarus, even though he had been in the tomb for four days, the sisters said to Jesus, "Even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask him" (John 11:22). Even now. That should be our theme. As Jeremiah declared, even in the midst of the devastation of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, "But this I will call to mind as my reason to have hope: The favors of the Lord are not exhausted; His mercies are not spent. They are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness" (Lam. 3:21-23). Yes, even now. Despite all the ills of the world at the dawn of the New Year, we are called to hope in the God who has not changed. Even now.
We can hope that our lives can change, and that the Culture of Death can change to a Culture of Life. The very fact that a New Year is beginning reminds us that God is patient. He continues to give us time to repent. We read in Luke 13: 6-9: “Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
We have a New Year in which to dig around and fertilize the soil of our lives and our culture. Some people are afraid of making New Year's resolutions, because they don't want the unhappy experience of the failure of keeping them. I encourage you to press forward with courage and to make them anyway, and here's why. The idea of making a resolution is not that you will keep it perfectly. Success is not measured by "never breaking" the resolution. Success, rather, is measured by the fact that you renew the resolution one time more than you break it.
As we begin the New Year, let us give thanks, and let us hope.