How to start the New Year right

You might have gathered from my last couple of blogs that I LOVE Christmas. And in recent years, I have discovered a new and even greater love of the advent season – the exciting, expectant, waiting for Jesus’ birth and all that it entails. A few precious, fleeting weeks of quiet and focus before the madness and chaos and family and presents and food…. oh, so much food.

Christmas Table     Brandy snaps    

And then.

And then….

The space, the yawning gap between the party season come-down and the hope and optimism of a new year dawning. Awash with resolutions, goal-setting, targets, focus, determination. Lists of things to be accomplished this year – weight lost, health regained, books read or written, hobbies perfected, races run, adventures had.

Now, I love a goal. I do that stuff. I firmly believe that being intentional about something – whatever that is or whatever getting there looks like to you – is key to making any change real in your life.

It’s just that this year, I think I have found the transition between the moments harder, more stark.

You see, Advent – for me anyway – is about just my favourite time of year. It’s 4 weeks of preparation, expectancy and quiet contemplation before the mayhem arrives. It is, by it’s very nature, all about Jesus. Totally, 100% focussed on the amazing miracle of the God-baby, the divine in human form coming to earth.

And then it’s gone. In one day and a mountain of wrapping paper and turkey bones, it’s all over and we are hurtling towards the Next Big Thing – New Year.

The tweets, the blogs, the chatter around me – thoughts turn from talk of the Messiah to resolutions, goals, targets for the up-coming year. Of course it’s natural and normal and completely OK. Perhaps it’s just something that God is whispering in my ear this year.

Don’t let the magic slip away too soon.

The awe, the majesty, the beauty.

Joshua Tree

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of psychology, a self-improvement book or wanting to take the new year by the horns and do something. But this year, my heart wants to linger a little longer. To hold on to the beauty and majesty of advent. The peace and purity of Jesus and all that he did for us when he gave up heaven and came to earth as a tiny baby.

Because it is there – in Jesus presence, in worshipping at the feet of the God-baby – that I actually find the strength to really change. Not in to-do lists or resolutions, not in trying to be more determined to be better this year. To read more. Memorise more scripture. Be a better Mum. It’s not that I don’t want to do those things – God knows I want to be more. It’s just that invariably, when I drag my eyes and my heart away from just looking at Jesus, I manage to mess it up. I put expectations on myself that I cannot meet. And as Ann Voskamp once said “Nothing kills joy more than expectations.” In short, I try to do it myself, rather than letting Him do it in me.

So as we enter 2014, I don’t want to hurry to look forward this year. I want to keep looking back. Back to advent, back to Jesus. Back to the purity and simplicity of the miracle birth. God become man. God with us. Immanuel. That timeless advent story that never changes. Our great and awesome God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. That’s what changes us.

And so whilst the New Year and it’s wide open gates of new beginnings is enticing and optimistic, and the chance to start over again is something we all need everyday, actually that grace is something we all get everyday already in Jesus. If only we’ll keep our eyes on it.