What Christmas Can Teach Us About New Year’s Resolutions

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January 1, 2018

PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11 (NLT)

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8  he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

CONSIDER THIS

Just a reminder we’re still in the season of Christmas. Today is the eighth day, but it’s also New Year’s Day. Today is the day all our resolutions kick in. All our goals for self-improvement, built around the ambitions of who we want to be, what is important to us, or what we want to accomplish. A resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something.”

Of course, at the end of one of the biggest food-fests of the year, from Thanksgiving to last night’s party, most of us resolve to eat better and lose weight. Then, when Valentine’s day comes around and we realize we’ve lost our resolve, we look to Lent as “New Year’s resolutions, take two.”

(Did I mention that this year Ash Wednesday is on Valentine’s day? Good luck with that.)

We stay in this cycle, year after year, becoming more frustrated or discouraged. So maybe the place to start is not with our ambition, but our attitude. We need, as today’s text says, the attitude of Christ.

We don’t think of this as a Christmas passage, but take a moment and re-read through the first half of the text again.

This is about what Jesus did by becoming a baby: He emptied himself of all ambition and privilege. To be like Christ is not a resolution, but a reorientation. Resolutions are about working harder, doing more, trying to improve our old nature. Attitude is a settled way of thinking.

And the attitude of Christ is about giving up, to be raised up again.

So instead of a list of goals for the year, how about a prayer? A daily declaration of our desire to have the same attitude of Christ. John Wesley gave us such a prayer. It comes from his covenant renewal service, which was typically done on or around the new year, but is a prayer for the whole year:

I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you, praised for you or criticized for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things to your hope and service. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be confirmed in heaven. Amen.

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Omar Rikabi is a United Methodist Pastor serving in North Texas. When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his three daughters, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends. You follow him on Twitter @omarrikabi or visit his blog omarrikabi.com

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