white calendar on white textile

Do You Need a New Year?

[I should have posted this last week, but I have been on a posting sabbatical and didn’t think about it. It still has relevance. I preached this on December 31, 2000.]

I am a mathematically impaired attorney. It’s not that I can’t do math, but that I just don’t care about numbers (except my golf score). I’m just more comfortable with words. As I work for an insurance company, however, I work with several actuaries and they definitely are people that care about numbers. If you’re not familiar with actuarial science, it basically involves using mathematical models to predict future trends. Actuaries live and breathe numbers!

I recently had a discussion with one of my actuarial colleagues about when the new millennium starts. With all of the noise made about it last year, I sort of have the perspective that this is one of those things that is whatever you believe it to be and since it was celebrated by virtually everyone last year, that was when the new millennium started. He assured me that statistically, the new millennium actually starts a second after midnight tonight- January 1, 2001. For those of you who favor numbers, that is 01-01-01.

That sobered me a bit as it struck me that I would be delivering to you the last message of the Gospel that you would be hearing until the next millennium.  Wow! I better have something really significant to say. Then when I read the passages you just heard, it was clear to me that God was giving me a great challenge today.  To talk to you about resolutions—not just resolutions for the new year, but resolutions for the new millennium!

My guess is that at one time or another virtually everyone makes a New Year’s Resolution. How about you? Making any this year? The type of resolutions we make tend to vary with age. A teen may commit to spending less time on the phone and more time with schoolwork. Baby boomers now undoubtedly resolve to exercise more, eat less, and lose weight. I know I have made those resolutions before. But I ask you, does this look like the body of some one who has successfully kept those resolutions? Anyone else been down that same road?

I have had one successful resolution. Several years ago I resolved to never again make a New Year’s Resolution. That’s one I’ve managed to keep! Resolutions simply are not fun. I invariably committed to transforming my life in some way that was beyond my own ability to produce. I concluded that after experiencing the joy of Christmas, I simply was not going to continue to immediately lose that feeling by facing the prospect of starting on an effort to change myself when I would eventually fail anyway.

Although I am now an opponent of New Year’s Resolutions, I have to admit that when I read today’s Epistle lesson it sure seemed to me that Paul is giving us a list of resolutions to make. And it is a list fit for New Millennium Resolutions, not just a new year. What does he say?

To be people of God we must clothe ourselves with:

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience
  • Forgiveness
  • Love

What do you think about that as a list of New Millennium Resolutions? Ready to commit with me to that list? If you do then you’re on your own. I just told you I don’t do resolutions!. This list is depressing! If I can’t pass up one of my wife’s brownies (they’re very good!), how in the heck am I going to make myself compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, and loving? Paul has to be nuts! I can’t do that.

How about you? Imagine yourself at a New Year’s party tonight. You stand before all of your friends and pledge that for the new millennium, for the rest of your life, you are going to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, and loving. You’re really serious so you’re making this grand public statement. What’s the reaction? I know my friends would hoot and laugh me down. They know that the list is impossible for me. You might have more polite friends than I do, but everyone nonetheless would be thinking that the list is impossible. Sure from time to time we may all screw up our willpower and do things that represent each item on the list, but it is a pretty tall order to just transform ourselves to be people that consistently live by those characteristics.

If Paul really is talking about us transforming ourselves, then I’m in trouble. But I think the point here is that Paul really is talking about Christmas, not a to-do list for a new year or a new millennium. He is talking about what happens to us because of Christmas, not what we must do.

Looking at Christmas we talk and sing a lot about joy, but why are we joyful? Well, the ready answer to that is because Christ was born. But so what? The “so what” is in today’s Gospel lesson. What an incredible statement! God became of our flesh, this same flesh that cannot pass by a plate of brownies, to make us His children by grace and truth. Nothing in there says that He came to give us a list of resolutions to keep to become His child. Indeed, in verse 13 John tells us that we do not become His children by human decision.

That is the reason for the joy of Christmas. Our joy is that God’s love came down to us at Christmas. God in His love came to us as Jesus, to be one of us, to show us that no matter how strong our resolutions, that God knows that on our own we will fail to be the people that he intended us to be, to show us that He knows that on our own no matter how hard we resolve to diet, we can’t pass that plate of brownies, but that if believe that God came to us as Christ and accept his grace, he will transform us into His children. Not by our will, but by the grace of His Spirit, we will be transformed into people of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. The joy of Christmas is the confidence that by God’s grace through Jesus we no longer have to confront an impossible list of things we must, but never can, do to be part of God’s Kingdom. We simply have to confess that on our own we will fail and sin and submit ourselves to God’s transforming grace.

So friends, as we stand here on the eve of the new millennium, I invite you to make the only resolution that is worthy of being called a Resolution for the New Millennium. That is to never again forget the joy found in the manger of Bethlehem. To never again be deceived by the thought that we can do anything to become a Child of God. To acknowledge that on your own you have sinned by relying on your will and failed. And to invite Christ to transform you by His grace. If you have never asked Christ into your life, then I invite you to make that New Millennium Resolution and pray to Him, telling him that you know that on your own you will sin and ask Him to take your life and transform you. If you already know Him, then I invite you to renew your commitment to Him and submit yourself once again to His grace. May the joy of Bethlehem fill you for the new millennium.


  1. Cindy Gay on January 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Well done my friend!

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Welcome, I'm Tom

I'm Tom Trezise a retired lawyer and corporate executive with over twenty years of experience as a Methodist lay preacher. Raised in Appalachia, I proudly call myself a hillbilly at heart. I'm the executive director of The Everyday Kingdom, a non-profit devoted to fostering a community that helps people find and experience the peace, purpose, and joy available from living every day in Christ’s kingdom.

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