The Seventh Night of Christmas (celebrating all things new)

NYC ball drop
REUTERS Carlo Allegri (Business Insider 12/31/2015)

‘Tis the seventh night of Christmas, and the world is enamored with celebrating New Year’s Eve.

This is a night of endless promise as we look towards the magical tomorrow.

Tomorrow (fingers crossed) is a new start. Tomorrow (please, oh please, oh please) things will be better. Tomorrow (this year we really mean it) we will try harder.

Tomorrow we will be new people who eat better, stay organized, purge excess, read more, spend less.

We promise others. We plead with ourselves. We clench tight our fists and commit to sincere and lasting newness in this coming year.

It is our last best hope, this opportunity to start over, year after year after year after year after year.

OR

“Tis the seventh night of Christmas, and the world is enamored with celebrating New Life through Christ.

This is a night of endless promise as we look towards a faithful and forgiven tomorrow.

Every tomorrow (assuredly) is a new day. Every tomorrow (by God’s good pleasure) things will still be in his control. Every tomorrow (by surrendering our will) we will be further sanctified.

Every tomorrow we can be new people who love others more, worry about ourselves less, follow Christ more closely, worship God more fully.

We hold to God’s promises. We die to our desires. We open wide our hands and commit to selfless and spirit-filled renewal in this new moment and day and year.

It is our only hope, this gift of being made new, day after day after day after day after day.

 

The only thing that really matters this year

January the first has passed, which means that approximately 99.9% of the resolutionary-minded demographic has already called it quits.

Calling it quits is so terribly easy to do. It requires nothing of a person except, you know, quitting, stopping, and giving up –unless the thing being quit is something one habitually does, in which case calling it quits requires nothing of a person except, you know, carrying on, maintaining the status quo, and not quitting.

I’ve called it quits enough to know that I hate being a quitter. It causes my soul to feel empty, my spirit to feel abandoned, and my selfhood to feel compromised.

But as surely as I was born a sinner, I was born a quitter – which sounds so sadly pathetic when it’s put into words that I’m tempted to stop writing right now, to crawl back into bed, and to (sigh) call it quits.

And that’s exactly what I probably would do if it weren’t for Jesus —

  • sinless Jesus who refused to quit a task that was beyond absurd, i.e. redeeming the lives of each and every sinful quitter that ever did walk on this earth —
  • loving Jesus who refused to give up on the least deserving and the most pitiable of us, i.e. each and every human being
  • selfless Jesus who willingly abandoned his rights and privileges for countless individual reasons, i.e. you… and you… and you…and you…and me.

Too many Christians think that the opposite of quitting is doing, accomplishing, being active, living busy. We are often expert (and frenetic) doers. To be sure, it is supremely important to be more than simply hearers of the law. The proof, says Jesus, is in the doing.

But the saving is not in the doing. The value is not in the doing. The being is not in the doing.

By all means, do. Often, it’s exactly what’s needed.

But doing isn’t the goal. Nor is it the antidote to quitting. For that, we need something more. Something bigger. Something bolder.

For that, we need finishing.

On the seventh day of creation, God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all of it. He stopped working — which might look the same as quitting but in fact is sacred stillness.

One day during his public ministry, Jesus finished teaching the people, so he returned to the quiet countryside. He stopped being with people — which might look the same as standoffishness but in fact is sacred solitude.

In the ninth hour of his crucifixion day, Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” and hung his head upon his chest. He stopped breathing earthly air — which might look the same as death but in fact is eternal life.

Because of all that, today we can be certain that God, who has begun his good work within us, will continue that work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns — which might look entirely impossible (being the sorry sinners we all are) but in fact is the blessed assurance upon which we build our lives.

For as long as I walk on this earth, I will wage battle against being a self-deprecating quitter just as much as I will wage battle against being an over-zealous doer. In the end, they are equally empty and destructive.

This year, we would all be wise to confess the quitting, admit the over-doing, and stop obsessing about both. Ditch the resolutions and instead, ask God for a gracious portion of wisdom, strength, and humility as he transforms us into people who finish the race set before us.