Okay, I’ll admit that New Year’s Day has always been one of my least favorite holidays. It generally involves drinking and crowds, two things about which I am not an enthusiast. I have often spent New Year’s Eve at home with family celebrating in the least exciting way possible – often sleeping through the changing of the year from one to another. In many ways, New Year’s is a contrived holiday, since the only reason one year changes to the next at that moment is because we say so. The calender, while it is informed by our earth’s journey around the sun, is in many ways a figment of our imagination.
I do think, however, that the New Year’s celebration, in the way we understand it, is a pregnant moment. It can be a time to reflect on the previous year and give thanks. It can be a time to take inventory of the things for which we are grateful and to whisper our gratitude to the divine origin of our bounty. In a world where time often whisks by without any significant reflection it is an opportunity to live into the eternal now by reflecting on where we have been and where we are heading.
Like many people, I have also had years to which I was more than happy to say goodbye. These are the years that mark serious losses or setbacks. While not wanting to wish away time it is nice to mark the finality of a season of despair and commit ourselves to a new season of hope and expectation. Without the marking of the years there are no benchmarks for our expectations and we could drift endlessly through periods of grief without a passage into a new era.
The Bible talks about time in two ways. Chronos is the passage of time in the common sense of the word. Kairos is time in the sense of a moment of opportunity (often divine intervention). It is the word that is used to say it is time to act. Recognizing the changing of one year to another in the passage of time (chronos) calls us to recognize this as a moment of opportunity (kairos) to open ourselves to transformation and growth.
And so, while New Year’s Day may be one of the most secular of holidays for many people, it is also an opportunity to reflect and recommit. There are many jokes made about the commitments that are made on New Year’s that drop by the wayside soon after. But I also know of many people who have used this time of the year for serious evaluation of their values and commitments and who have made substantial alterations in their approach to life and loves. Maybe this is can be an opportunity to live into the divine promise which states, “See, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)