There are some holidays that I love because they celebrate key moments in history that went on to change my life (like Christmas and Easter), some holidays that I have trouble celebrating because of the political and nationalistic overtones about which I have not come to a firm conclusion (like Veterans Day, The Fourth of July, and Memorial Day), and then there are some holidays that I have seen the church import into it’s annual calendar for very good reason. Mothers should be celebrated by the family of God because they are imaging God in a way that half of the population of the world just simply can’t. Fathers, likewise, should be celebrated for the unique way that they are bearing God’s image to the world. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are completely made up holidays, but we can take these holidays and use them to proclaim God to the world that surrounds us.
Another one of these arbitrary holidays is when to celebrate the New Year. Most of the world utilizes the Gregorian Calendar to mark of days, weeks, months, and years. But their are other systems that could be used. So celebrating the New Year between what we call December 31st and January 1st is really a matter of preference.
But when we celebrate the beginning of something new and the ending of something old it is an amazing opportunity to take stock of that which took place and what we want in the coming year. While this idea is common practice for many, it is certainly an idea that resounds heavily with the Christian life. Examining your life, leaving behind that which holds you back, and looking forward to what lies ahead, I think it was these ideas that Paul had in mind when he asked those in the church at Philippi to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12) He continued on and said, “for it is God who works in you” in verse 13, so he was not expecting these followers of Jesus to save themselves, but rather to recognize the work that God was doing in them.
What about you in 2017? Have you seen the works that God is doing in you come out into the world? Have you seen fruit from the work of your hands? Have you helped another know and follow Christ? Have you kept a baby alive (a huge task to be sure!)? Do you understand more about who you are because of who God is and what He has done for you than you did in 2016? Do you love on a more consistent basis than you did a year ago? When people look at you, do they see Jesus?
There is a very scary warning that Jesus laid out in His sermon on the mount. Matthew 7:15-20 says,
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
I find this warning compelling because it makes me look at my own life and the fruit that it bears. Am I just putting on sheep’s clothing? Am I in reality a diseased tree? Am I deserving of being cut down and thrown into the fire?
The fruit of the work of my hands has not been all grapes and figs, but instead I can point to fear, anger, and confusion that I have caused in 2017. And so I come to God with stained hands with which I have performed these labors. And I ask Him once again, using the words of my namesake when his sin was pointed out to him,
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
What are you take aways from the changing of the years? What are you going to leave behind? What do you need to bring to God and ask Him to destroy for your sake? What do you want to keep doing because it bears wonderful fruit in 2018?