A time for resolutions

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

—Phillippians 3:10-14 (NRSV)

During my high school years I spent most New Year's Eves with my friend, Greg, at his home just outside of town. In the late ’90s his family built a large, beautiful, new home that had a kitchen and living room that were perfect for entertaining. Greg's parents would invite friends and family to come over on New Year's Eve to enjoy a huge spread of hors d'oeuvres, watch the ball drop in Times Square, and enjoy drinks and even a round of cigars at midnight. It was always quite the party.

But, apart from occasional trips to the kitchen for snacks, Greg and I never paid much attention to the festivities in the other parts of the house. Hours would pass by without us realizing it, talking about school and life, listening to music, and, of course, playing video games (this was an era when Nintendo and Sony Playstation were in fierce competition for customer loyalty, and there were great games being produced by both companies — Greg happened to own both systems). Midnight usually came and passed without us realizing it for at least an hour or more.

1999 was a little different. Do you remember the hype surrounding Y2K? In the months leading up to New Year's Eve of 1999 there was a generalized fear that grew gradually around the globe. Primarily, the fear was that the computer systems that had become ubiquitously used by the 90s to control power infrastructures, financial institutions, the stock markets, government and defense systems, and the worldwide nuclear weapon arsenal had a flaw that could potentially cause a global catastrophe at the stroke of midnight. For the most part it boiled down to one issue with computers: the thought that instead of using four digits for the year, computers may have been programmed to only use two. So, instead of 1999 clicking over to 2000, 99 would click over to 00, thereby backdating data, confusing computers, or worse, erasing a century's worth of financial information and technological achievement. Some feared that this technological reversal of time would cause the launch of Cold War-era nuclear missiles, and global civilization would be obliterated in a matter of minutes, with the world helplessly standing by to watch. There were stories on the news of people emptying grocery store shelves and stockpiling goods in bunkers in anticipation of an inevitable infrastructure, financial, and nuclear apocalypse.

Well, that didn't happen. The dawn came on January 1st and life continued on in the new century just where we left off in 1999. The fear and panic of Y2K practically vanished overnight, and now the topic has been relegated to the annuals of history and has been mostly forgotten, even by those who seriously questioned if the end was truly coming that night. That was the only night in four years that I remember watching the ball drop at Greg's house. It's hard to believe that was twenty years ago.

Millions of people worldwide make resolutions on New Year's Eve, promising to make a change in their lifestyles, habits, goals, or dreams for the coming year. At their best, resolutions can lead to actual change for the better. At their worst, they can lead to disappointment or disillusionment, or turn into a joke among family and friends. There is a definite sense of vulnerability in sharing your personal resolutions with others.

The passage from Philippians above shares a poignant resolution made publicly by St. Paul — one that serves as a powerful example of our own lives of faith. Paul writes, "…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus." This is an important reminder that, though changes in diet, habits, or financial management may be needed and deeply beneficial to our earthly lives in 2020, our spiritual lives may also need to be tended to in a fresh way, rooted not in a promise we make to ourselves, but rather in God's promises that have already been made known to us in Christ Jesus.

If you have made a resolution for a healthy change in 2020, I support you and wish you the very best in reaching your goal. At the same time, do not forget the resolution God has already made for you — that the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus is prepared for you in the right time. May this promise also guide your daily priorities and habits in 2020 and beyond. And, as Paul said, let us press on!

Happy New Year, and may God bless you in 2020,

Pastor Nathan

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