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Summary: A challenge to make this year the greatest we’ve seen as a church.

I want to offer my commendations to each of you, this morning. Every single one of you deserves a huge congratulation because, as of this moment, you have not missed one church service all year long. That’s something to be proud of. And I am proud of you. Granted it’s still the first day of the year and there are another 52 Sundays left, but that’s OK. You’re here today and that’s what matters today.

There’s a story told about the English actor, Frederick Lonsdale, who was engaged in a long running and bitter feud with another member of a club he was a part of. The two had once been close friends, but now bitterness kept them apart. It was a New Year’s Eve when Seymour Hicks insisted Lonsdale reconcile with his old friend. "You must," Hicks said to Lonsdale. "It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy New Year." Finally convinced, Lonsdale crossed the room to speak to his friend-turned-enemy. "I wish you a happy New Year," he said, "but only one."

This is New Year’s Day, and I do wish you a very happy one, hopefully more than one. While it is the first day of the year 2006, this day also represents the last of the holiday season. We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas, and today we finish off this round with the coming of the new year. Personally, I believe that of all the holidays this one is one of the greatest. Don’t take me wrong, I love Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter and the Fourth of July. And I understand that it’s probably heresy for me to say that I think New Year’s Day ranks right up there with or above some of those. I know it has no biblical significance. I realize the importance of Christmas and the sacredness of Easter and the blessedness of Thanksgiving. But I believe that New Year’s Day is just as personally beneficial as any of those, if not more so in some cases.

Why do I say that? What is it about New Year’s Day that would cause me to consider it so highly? It’s because New Year’s Day forces you to take a close look at your life. There is something about the new year that causes us to stop for a moment and look back over the past year. There’s something about it that causes us to stop and evaluate where we are. There’s just something about it that causes us to consider what we should have done better or what we shouldn’t have done at all. And then, when we’ve finished looking back the New Year drives us to look ahead and begin making plans for this year. Whether we sit down and write out a list of resolutions or not, we begin laying out our goals for ourselves. We want to do better in an area this year than we did last year. We want to break a habit that controlled us last year. We want to lose that weight, we want to make more money, we want to spend more time with our family. Whatever it may be, we try to take the opportunity we have in this fresh start, this blank slate in front of us to improve ourselves. What other holiday causes us to do that? New Year’s Day is a great day to evaluate the past and plan for the future.

So why do we do it? Why do so many of us sit down and try to write out our list of goals or resolutions or whatever you choose to call them? Why is it such a big deal to us to make improvements on the past year? I believe it’s because we want this year to be the greatest year of our lives.

This morning, as the pastor of First Wesleyan Church, I find myself doing that same sort of thing on the broader scale of our church’s ministry. I find myself thinking about the past year and what we did well, and what we could do better. I find myself looking to the year 2006 and trying to plan how we can improve our ministry. How can we be more effective? How can we make sure that this year is the best year we’ve ever had?

I want to try and answer those questions for you today. I’m not going to do it by looking back over the past year and pointing out all of our failures. I’m not going to do it by listing a bunch of programs that are guaranteed to give us success. But I have three New Year’s Resolutions for our church that I believe can help us to be able to look back this time next year and say, “2006 was the best year that First Wesleyan Church has ever had.” Let me give them to you.

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