Culturally, the New Year is a time of resolutions. This is the season when many quickly resolve to make themselves over. Occasionally, our resolutions are for 'extreme makeovers' or extraordinary transformations. This is the moment we seize to begin anew, to do over, to redefine ourselves.
But, for disciples of Jesus, the New Year is a time to renew our covenant with God. It is a season to recall that we do not make ourselves over, but we are made over through Christ alive in us. It is a time to acknowledge that God is our covenant Friend:
the One who gives us life and hope,
the One who fills our hearts with hunger for truth and righteousness,
the One who is our light in darkness,
the One who remembers us when we forget God.
For followers of Jesus, this is a season of renewal, not resolutions.
As a local church pastor, I would invite my congregation to participate in our United Methodist Covenant Renewal Service every New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. John Wesley, primary author of our "methodist" revival movement, developed and published several versions of a Covenant Service. The very first real celebration of the Covenant Service in the Methodist movement was held on Monday, August 11, 1755. Around England, the Covenant Service was conducted whenever John Wesley visited the Methodist Societies. In short order, covenant renewal services were being held on New Year's Day in the class meetings and societies of the Methodist movement.
Many United Methodists can recite all or portions of Wesley's invitation to his Covenant Service as deftly as they can recite the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed or Psalm 23. The words are powerful and provocative. They invite a measure of humility, denial and surrender that is often discomforting. They clearly remind us that we belong to Christ, and that to give up ourselves to Christ in all things is the only "resolution" we need to make.
So as you prepare for the New Year and all the blessings it will hold for you, I invite you to renew your covenant with God and to join with me and Methodist people throughout the ages as we pray:
Lord, make me what you will.
I put myself fully into your hands;
put me to doing, put me to suffering,
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.I freely and with willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal. Amen.