New Year's Resolutions


Luke 2:15-21 & Galatians 4:4-7
January 1st 2012 – New Year’s Resolutions

Why are people so happy and optimistic on New Year’s Eve? Being a ‘glass half full’ person I tend to think of bad things that could happen. For example in the last 10 years we have lost Johnny Cash, Steve Jobs, Bob Hope, and now Jimmy Saville. So, now we have No Cash, No Jobs, No Hope and no-one to Fix It!

With each New Year we like to think there appears to be some bright shining hope but not just for the world but also for ME. The hope of a new ME. And I have been thinking that for far more years than I care to tell you and I know that (I am talking in a non Christian sense) it is still the same old me standing here. Still overweight and untidy!

With New Year Resolutions things rarely go as planned do they. I’m someone who likes to do my best and for me that means being prepared and I think lies behind my making New Year Resolutions? Kind of taking stock of our lives? For example the Deanery clergy have all, very successfully, taken up using Mark Foster’s ‘Do it Tomorrow’ book to help us take stock of lives before any changes were made.

One thing we mustn’t leave until tomorrow is our faith – a really fatal mistake which forfeits eternal life!

And our faith does give us someone to fix-it.

I’m pleased to say that in Christian terms I am not standing here the same old me, God has worked in my life over the years to make a new me. I wonder if any of your Resolutions are about deepening your faith or finding out more about your faith? If they are and you would like to share that with me I would be deeply moved by that.

Recently our PCC had an ‘Away-Day’ to look at ourselves as a church. In truth we are required to do this, it is called a ‘Mission Action Plan’ (MAP). There is a kind of check-list to go through to look at the health of SMAS and come up with a diagnosis of problems and a way forward to put things right and restore the church to being fully thriving and healthy. You will all eventually get a report about it but for now just let me say that we found some fairly big weaknesses that need working on. This means that in effect the PCC have made some New Year Resolutions about this church. We have decided that we need to become a church that is motivated and energised by its faith and also that we listen to God to find out what He wants us to do. And because the word ‘church’ means a gathering of Christian Community that means these resolutions apply to us all individually and corporately as SMAS.

But even with it involving all of us that still wouldn’t be enough. For it all has to come from, and be worked on, through God and with God. And as He called those first shepherds to see Jesus and have their lives changed by the encounter He does that with us too.

And New Year is a good time for that to begin. January gets its name from a Roman God Janus, he’s pictured as a man with 2 faces, one looking to the past and the other towards the future and this is helpful when making resolutions. As much as we might want this to be a completely new start, it doesn’t start in a vacuum. We are as we are as a church because of all that’s gone on in the past. We need to look back and think what lessons have learned. What has been hard or gone wrong? What habits might we need to be rid of? What has worked and what do we want to be thankful for?

St James tells us that we must be like people who look in a mirror and take action accordingly i.e. we see what needs working on and not just ignore it. We mustn’t dwell in the past but can learn a lot from it that will help us to move forward. We can also see God’s goodness which can feed and motivate our faith.

And believe me we do need to be motivated! At the start of a New Year we face new opportunities, new possibilities. Where do we need to go forward? Whenever we make New Year resolutions the best place to start is to think where we’d like to be this time next year? In other words what are we aiming at? As sure as eggs are eggs if we aim at nothing then we will be sure to hit it!

The PCC have decided that we need to be a church that is energised by faith and listens to what God wants. How are we going to get there? My answer is that ALL of us need to learn a lot more about our faith. There will be no one time in our lives when we will have got to know all about our faith because God leads us on to learn new things each day we walk with Him. None of can say ‘this doesn’t apply to me. I know all there is to know’.

But, on the other hand, we are all at different stages in our journey of faith. I really feel the need here to say though that those who think they know the most and those who think they know the least are usually both wrong! The ones who know the poverty of their faith are generally further on than they think and vice-versa. Listen to the Epistle for today: Galatians 4:4-7. Think how readily did you understand every word of that?

So let me come up with what I think should be a few new year resolutions for us to make this year:

  1. Find time for God each day and build a personal relationship with Him. That book I told you about says always write down everything you intend to do / want to happen. And it is really important to do that. Look at your day. Work out when will the best time for an appointment with God? Write it on the calendar because this will GREATLY increase the likelihood of it happening! Two further things that will help it happen: firstly don’t make the appointment boring by always doing the same thing each day. Add some variety - read your bible, read an inspirational book, pray, sing, walk, make and write a prayer journal, etc. How boring are friendships where we say and do the same things every time we’re together. Secondly pace yourself! How do you eat an elephant? An inch at a time! Don’t start by thinking that you must spend an hour with God, or even half an hour. Just as exercising too long and hard to start with puts you off ever doing it again, be realistic. Start with 5 or 10 minutes. God would rather meet with you for one minute each day than 20 minutes one day a year.
  2. Stay or become active in your church’s worship, Bible Studies or any special extra’s that get put on. Because of the PCC’s decision there are going to be some extra teaching slots arranged. There will also be extra times to gather for prayer and worship, extra services such as for Lent or Holy Week are all golden opportunities to deepen our faith. Jesus instructed the disciples to keep meeting together for all of those things as well as for the fellowship. *Show slide of letter a vicar got from a church member:
  3. Choose to give regularly to the church. Insurance claims are no longer paid in full for metal theft and what we will receive in compensation will go nowhere near replacing the roof that’s been stolen recently.
  4. I suppose this is what most people do in a new year resolution but decide to put any undesirable habit, addiction, sin, whatever you call it into the hands of God. This is where we usually start but in fact it is where we go wrong! We need to address what motivates and energises our lives in order to put things right. So start with all of the previous things I’ve said and then you will find this one much easier to achieve. Because we can’t change ourselves. We need the powerful presence of God which will only come from building that personal relationship with Him.

Let us make this New Year a year where we decide to fully engage with our faith, doing all we can to grow in it by participating as much as possible and also by placing it all into the ever capable hands of our God. We will have a chance in a moment to engage in that a little more by saying the words of the Covenant together.

*Dear Vicar:

You often stress attendance at worship as being very important for a Christian, but I think a person has a right to miss now and then. I think every person ought to be excused for the following reasons and the number of times indicated.

Christmas Holidays (the Sunday before & after) 2
New Years (the party lasted too long) 1
Easter (get away for the holidays) 2
Bank Holiday Weekends 3
Vintage Car Rally 1
Village Feast Weekend 1
School closing (kids need a break) 1
School reopens (one last fling) 1
Visiting relatives 6
Sleep late (stayed up too long Saturday night) 9
Deaths in family 2
Anniversary (second honeymoon) 1
Sickness (one per family member) 5
Business trip (a must) 1
Holidays 4
Bad weather 2
Special Sports events (FA cup, Wimbledon, Rugby, Cricket) 4
Unexpected company (can’t walk out) 2
Time changes (spring & autumn) 2

That leaves two Sundays per year. So, you can count on us to be in church on the 4th Sunday in February and the 3rd Sunday in August unless we are providentially hindered.
A Faithful Member