As we roll from one year to the next, we hope life will be better somehow. We aim to be more dedicated, more disciplined and more devoted. And yet, statistics show that New Year’s resolutions for are often dropped by the second week or third week of the year. Some of us avoid failure by not even considering resolutions. Others of us take a realistic examination of our lives and ponder carefully what changes might be made. Small adjustments are more likely maintained, and changes rooted in a secure identity of value and dignity, not shame and blame, are much more likely to bring positive transformation. Christians believe this secure identity is found in unity with Jesus Christ, the divine-human child, whose birth we are still celebrating. This is the One who helps us to understand how valuable we are in the eyes of God.
Theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman, 1899-1981, speaks of the days that follow Christmas and the resolutions of a New Year:
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
Never miss a local story.
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.”
Thurman’s best-known prayer reminds us that an openness to God is the best way to be transformed.
“Lord, open unto me
Open unto me – light for my darkness.
Open unto me – courage for my fear.
Open unto me – hope for my despair.
Open unto me – peace for my turmoil.
Open unto me – joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me – strength for my weakness.
Open unto me – wisdom for my confusion
Open unto me – forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me – love for my hates.
Open unto me – thy Self for myself.
Lord, Lord, open unto me!”
He also challenges us: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I pray this year we will all come alive.
The Rev. Elizabeth Deibert: 941-753-7778 Peace Presbyterian Church, 12705 State Road 64, Lakewood Ranch. Email edeibert@peacepcusa. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.