Setting Priorities for the New Year


What is your favorite holiday?  My guess is that most people living in a “Christian society” around the world would say that Christmas is their favorite holiday.  Although I can understand the reasons for selecting this day as your number one, I have to admit that my favorite is New Year’s Day.  Part of the reason behind me selecting this day is because it is one of the rare celebratory days that is largely untouched by commercialism (unless you count football commercials).  The bigger reason likely has to do with my personality.  I am an optimist and I love the theory, however faulty it may be, that I can become a better person.

From my earliest memories, I have made New Year’s Resolutions.  I have vowed to be better at reading my Bible and have read the first few chapters of Genesis countless times, but the first few pages of Numbers are much whiter.  I have joined the crowd and pledged to lose weight through a variety of ways.  In an attempt to conquer the mountain of magazines that threatens to start an avalanche any day, I’ve resolved to read one of the issues each week.  Multiple years have found me promising (and re-promising) to organize my family pictures.  I’ve tried setting up rigorous exercise routines.  You name it, if it is a weakness of mine (and I have a plethora to pick from), I’ve tried to make a change for the better at some point in my life.  

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that my favorite part of resolutions is the planning stage.  I relish making charts and setting schedules.  Somehow creating a plan on paper makes it so much more realistic.  Of course, history has revealed that usually my pen is mightier than my stamina.  My optomism is fed by the fact that after having ‘organize photos’ on my list for about five years, I finally accomplished this goal a couple of years ago.  I conveniently forget that I am now twenty pounds over my goal weight and my jiggly places still jiggle.  But there’s always ‘tomorrow’, right?

I think the most important thing in resolution planning is to decide what your non-negotiables are.  For me, my time with God is on the top of the list.  I have to tell you that even though I’ve established that my personal Bible time and time to worship God in a public setting (church) is top priority, it doesn’t mean that keeping these intentions at the top is an easy task.  I never have as intense a desire to catch up on the unread newspaper at my feet or the unread emails in my inbox as when I sit down to read my Bible.  I have had to turn down (or be late) to many family functions and nix overnight stays in order to go to my local church on Sunday mornings.  I also find so many compelling reasons to stay up late on Saturday nights, which makes my Sunday mornings a struggle.

This week had a huge soul battle.  Somehow I didn’t realize that Christmas was falling on a Sunday until about a week before it happened.  As I thought through what Sunday morning would be like, my chest started to tighten.  How would we ever have time to open family gifts and eat our traditional Christmas breakfast around our church schedule?  Because of a pre-set time that we were to gather with extended family in the afternoon, we had limited ability to shift things around much.  Although there was never a time when I considered not going to church, I found myself getting pretty resentful that Christmas was falling on a Sunday and if I took an honest look at my heart, I have to admit that there was a part of me that saw the church time as an intrusion into our family plans.

When I had time to step back and analyze my emotional response, I was quite horrified with myself.  On the surface, it looked acceptable.  I was just trying to preserve family tradition while keeping the stress at bay that would surely come from trying to compress it into a much smaller time allotment.  Surely no one could fault me from being a little disgruntled.

Then came the familiar nudge.  Christmas….  If someone asked me why I celebrate it, what would my response be?  Do I celebrate for the gifts?  What about the special breakfast?  It’s nice to get together with family, but is that why I recognize Christmas?  No.  There would be no CHRISTmas without the birth of Christ.  Sure, there could be a day of celebration, but it may as well be a secular X-mas.  

I started to think about how I’d feel if a friend called me up and told me how much they looked forward to celebrating my birthday all year and then when the day came they decided it would just be a big hassle and they would rather celebrate it without me.  I would really wonder what was important to them and suspect that I was only meaningful to them when they had nothing better to do.

I also reflected on the wise men who came from the east to see the Christ child.  Was it convenient to travel the many miles (some speculate at least 1000) over rugged territory to see Him?  Couldn’t they just send out their gifts on the next camel caravan and explain that the distance made it just too difficult to come personally.  The blessed family would surely understand that the obstacles were too great.  

We know that wayside theives were known to accost travelers, even in Biblical times.  I would suspect that this could be a reasonable concern for these men, enhanced by the fact that they’d be traveling with valuables.  Then once they committed to going, did their barriers end there?  The Biblical account said that they met with Herod and were later warned in a dream to not go back the way they’d come.  Do you think the despot who was responsible for the deaths of so many children would hesitate to snuff out the existence of those who had apparently double crossed him?  No, celebrating Christ’s birth was not just a matter of a quick trip across town to “put in their time”.  It was probably the biggest decision of their lives.  Although our nativity scenes show wealthy merchants opening their gifts, we cannot be sure that wise men are rich men. Maybe they had been saving for years for this event, having faith that the prophesies would unfold during their lifetime.  Regardless of their financial status, it cost them greatly to make the trip.

This year, as I’m making my New Year’s resolution list, I’m going to really try to prioritize my goals.  What is most important?  Why is it important?  Is what I’m doing (or saying I’ll do) consistent with what I say is important to me?  In the end, I must keep the most important thing the most important thing.  I can’t let the lesser important items, even if they are good things, suffocate the more important resolutions.  Do I walk what I talk, even when it’s not convenient?  I need to be intentional about what I do because time can never be regained.  Over all, I need to seek God’s guidance about what I place at the top of my list and then look to Him to help me accomplish it.  

Happy New Year!

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Matthew 6:33






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