January 4, 2018
Before proceeding to this week’s published article, I will let you know that on this 11th Day of Christmas, I still consider the implications and depth of The Incarnation.
Yesterday I played Michael W Smith’s Christmas, and today Rivertribe Christmas. Each is a favorite and help me savor the beauty. This action is not driven by the necessity to pile up music because Christmas will soon be over! No, it proceedings at a relaxed, inviting flow.
One thing I can report: no songs played during these eleven days had anything to do with Rudolph. Your mindset and mind contents make a difference in how your days go, and thereby how your life goes.
Here’s a favorite since I heard it first in 1989, from Michael W Smith’s Christmas. If you want to take four minutes to deepen your gratitude for the meaning of Messiah coming to our world, enjoy it here (unfortunately not live, but static with music, but the song is good):
I would not mind this to be the last year we ever put up a tree. Why? Rather, it would be to invest in a quality nativity then grow it piece by piece (peace by peace?) each year. The idea: sharpen the focus on the “Star of the Show,” if I can say that with reverence.
- Memorialize the actual event and immerse thought into it.
- Consider the sorrow for His future.
- Consider our joy because of His sorrow.
- Be awed by the wonder of the miracle.
Trees are pretty. But most carry little meaning. What do ribbons and colored balls mean? I am not sure.
We could make a case for the lights having meaning. Some make a case that the tree is a holdover from idolatrous practice. I can see the connections. But, I’d just prefer to focus more clearly on The Star!
If I have not digressed, I am about to do so. This has become nearly its own post.
So, on to this week’s subject.
Have you wondered how much New Year’s Resolutions are driven (not such a good word, is it?) by a sense of religious or moral duty? When they are, that’s an awful incentive. It works against grace and freedom.
Is this a call for selfish laziness? No.
According to this article, the history of resolutions is filled largely by desires to “be a better person”.
For one thing, your ability to accomplish that, on your own, is limited. Less kindly, I’d say impossible. We tire of the rigor. “Being a better person” is a grace work, available in generous quantity from Almighty God.
I suppose the definition of “better person” has a wide range of permutations, almost as wide as the population, although most agree on a few basics. In my experience, they are areas of life and practice well-covered in the Holy Book, if we’d only pay attention.
But no. We want to “do it our way”.
“I Did It My Way” is an arrogant, self-centered, unhumble expression. I don’t want to do it my way. Too many poor outcomes are involved.
For another thing, in a thoroughly pagan culture as described in the article, reference above, the hope for actual transformation is seriously mitigated. Trying to get some pantheon of gods off my back for awhile creates labored duty and barely squashed resentment. (To get myself off my back may be even more frustrating.) It’s like kids wishing they could get their parents off their back, due to their “condemnation engineering“, a wonderfully descriptive phrase I got from Dallas Willard.
You cannot create a transformed heart. With gritting teeth and mighty effort we may be able to make some changes that last. But why do this by ourselves, when divine help is so readily available?
To periodically stop, reflect, give thanks, and repent where needed is a fruitful exercise. Responding to the Holy Spirit of God and to His written words to us can help bring real change. That’s true even in the low-down practical things, like “lose weight”. (BTW – How much? This isn’t very specific. One pound manages to fill that goal.)
Less religious duty and more responsive love to God will change a lot in me, without much else being employed. If only we could grasp the love, forgiveness, and grace of God. Certainly I need to exercise effort to cooperate with God. But He helps even in that.
Now we are talking transformation!
Do you make resolutions? How does it turn out? What needs to change?