Summary: When life is not going the way you want, it is human nature to review and promise oneself to redouble effort and do better. Here lies the root of the New Year resolution.
A New You in a New Year: How to Keep New Year Resolutions
Mark 1 : 4 – 11
Welcome to a New Year and welcome to the first Sunday in the New Year. In the church Calendar, it is the Baptism of the Lord and the Epiphany. Today we celebrate with the Church universal the giving of the Christ child and recall the ancient traditions of Baptism of the Christ child. In our postmodern period we may be forgiven for not keeping up with much of the church’s Calendar since we have so much to keep up with like, the Kardashians. Yet throughout the history of the church we are called upon, following the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas, to reflect on our lives as Christians. The New Year is also a time of resolutions to change our lives and to pursue different things for different result. I once was a smoker about 30years ago and I still recall making a New Year resolution to give up smoking in the New Year. It was hard and with taunts and a dare from friends. I gave it up with so much struggle and pain. When I look back at it, I am glad that I did.
Ever wonder why people make New Year resolutions? Experts think that the desire to change one’s life and pursue what is good and desirable is at the roots of New Year’s resolution. People make resolutions to change bad habits like I did with smoking. When life is not going the way you want, it is human nature to review and promise oneself to redouble effort and do better. Here lies the root of the New Year resolution. Our Gospel reading this morning as recorded by St Mark may appear as a story to introduce John the Baptist and the Baptism of our Lord. In a way that is what it is, but this morning I want to lead you to another angle of the story namely, a resolution and a promise by individuals to do better. I want you to think about those individuals who responded to the invitation of John the Baptist.
Pay attention to the introduction of John the Baptist by St. Mark in Verse 4: He “appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Mark spends very little time in the introduction of John except to quote the Prophet Isaiah and get straight to the point. John “appeared” and preached the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” This piece of information is relevant for our purpose in the New Year. To understand why it is relevant let me remind you about the history of Palestine during the period. The Romans colonized the Jews and had taken control of the land including stationing soldiers at the temple. The people of God realized that they themselves had contributed to their situation by not following God. They have seen their situation deteriorate from bad to worse and even worship at the Temple required a tax to a foreign power – Caesar. This was prove enough that God had abandoned them and so many knew that if a change was to come, they had to change their ways, make amends with God in order to see a better day and live a better life. St Mark captures the language of the time in his rendering of the word “metanoia” or “change of mind”. It was the changing of the mind or repenting for a purpose and that was to have one’s sins forgiven so one can receive the blessings of the Lord. And so John came with this singular message. Baptism was, and still is, a sign that one has resolved to live a better life. Before John the Baptist, people either immersed themselves or went to the priest to be baptized to affirm this willingness that they have changed their lives. John “appeared” and baptized others as a witness to prepare others for a changed life. In the Church, we baptized in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as a witness to faith in Christ.
The people in the time of Christ endured hardship and oppression and so they realized that if a change was to come, they too must do self-introspection as a way to understand their contribution to their problem and then see what changes were needed to bring about a solution. It was time to heed the call for changing of the mind and recognize that individual actions lead to collective pain. This was not new. The Prophet Isaiah had called for repentance and a re-examination of life as a way to prepare for a new era. (Isa. 40 : 3). The Prophet Malachi had also called for change and corporate re-direction (Mal. 3 1 – 3). You cannot see change if you continue to do the same thing in the New Year like you did in the old year. So how do you keep Your New Year Resolution?