The shift from the “Spirit of Christmas” to the “Spirit of New Years” always bothers me. The first focuses upon love, family, the Christ child, gifts, warmth, and well-being. The latter focuses, at least in popular culture and media, on hard-partying, alcohol consumption, pushing the limits, and excess. And this abrupt shift all takes place within a week.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a party-pooper—or at least I don’t think I am. I’ve gone to my share of New Year’s Eve parties, and I’ve enjoyed the fun, friends, and fellowship. But I’m not impressed with people who want to let it all hang out in an overnight effort to develop a historic hang over. What’s it really mean to hammer yourself this way? It’s like these people have had enough of giving to others and now they want to live, live, live for themselves. New Year’s Eve as portrayed in media always feels to me like “Narcissism run amok.”
I do like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, though. As an educator, I get this opportunity more than once per year, at the beginning of the Fall Semester and again at the beginning of the Spring Semester. But for most people, New Year’s is the time when we think about what we’d like to change about ourselves and our lives. Insofar as people take this opportunity seriously I think it’s a good practice. I’ve known people who set out to change their professions and did. I’ve known people who’ve made resolutions to lose 10 or 20 or 30 pounds and did. I’ve also known some people who’ve set spiritual goals, some publicly shared and some privately held, but each to good effect as these folks learned to trust God anew with their “issues.”
One way I’ve tried to keep the Christmas spirit alive into the New Year is to use this week to reflect upon who during the past year has made the most positive impact upon or contribution to my life. Who helped me when they did not have to do so? Who corrected or mentored or invested in me? Who gave to me with no expectation of return? Who, aside from my family, cared about me in a way that I wish I more consistently cared about others? Who really made a mark on me this past year?
When I identify these few people, maybe no more than three or four, usually but not always men, I write each one of them a one or two page hand-written thank you. I’ve done this pretty consistently for about twenty years. I’m not saying this to draw kudos or because I think this small act makes me special. I say it because it’s been a very good “discipline” for me, reminding me that I do not achieve alone, that I do not contribute alone, that I do not succeed alone, and that I want to be like the one leper out of ten who returned to thank the Lord Jesus for healing him, not the nine who lived ungratefully.
If you become oddly saddened by the mad and maddening rush of the New Year, I recommend this practice of reflection and thanksgiving to you. It will uplift your spirit. It will uplift others’ spirits to whom you write, and it will extend the Spirit of Christmas into the New Year.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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