New Years is usually accompanied by some degree of anxiety, in expectation of some unknown change. There is an expectation that somehow there is some hope for some miraculous change to occur – that in that countdown to the new year there is a new opportunity – that this time there is truly a chance to make it right. Those new years resolutions spew forth from every overactive anxious human will – “I will quit smoking,” “I will lose weight,” “I will quit alcohol,” “quit this destructive behavior or that one.” I will make more money, get to the top. Although resolutions are often masked under a more pious covering, “I will go to church more,” “be more spiritual,” “get my life together,” etc. While it may be positive to make specific disciplined changes in life, Satan loves emboldening that human will into grand self-willed and self-directed private ‘covenants,’ ‘pacts’ and resolutions. He sets us up for despair with every broken promise that we do not keep. That tempter always wants us to be something other than what we are. He always wants to have that ‘best life now’ to be that new and better you. He wants you to make your own baptism, to descend into your own delusions, and arise in that false hope of your owm making – that desolation and anguish of personal promises and plans that could never be fulfilled.
That mystical wish that surrounds New Years Eve is that something unexpected might happen or you can be ‘something other than what you are.’ That mystique is usually crushed quickly, often times accompanied by that hangover or splitting headache from cheap champagne. That next day is usually the same as the year before. Within weeks you fall back into that secret sin, or have that cigarette, or overeat, or backpedal on whatever dream was dreamed up. That new life – that hope that things may be different is always misplaced, and that hope is also hooked on the wrong things. For that new life we have one promise that does not break, and is not loosely hitched upon on own plans or ambitions. It’s not dependent on your commitment and execution of your personal resolution. That testimony of Christ overwhelms and kills our plans, and brings us safely into his.
Our New Years resolutions must be bound up in that confession that Christ has resolved to redeem and sanctify his people. In that faith we may be moved out in freedom to fear, love, and trust in God above all things and receive that spontaneous joy to turn from ourselves and move into that service and love of neighbor. When it comes to making disciplined changes in the new year, be it resolved that the Lord Christ attend to you, in His gifts of forgiveness, His preaching, along with the prayers of the church. With those temptations and bad habits that overwhelm us, we may rest in prayer, letting Christ the child do our fighting against hell for us – interceding – praying – dying and rising for us. C.F.W. Walther stresses that the Christian remain a Christian and that his call to freedom in the new years is simply ‘I am baptized:’
“Now then, all of you who believe in God’s Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: ‘I am baptized!’ Although the world may laugh at this comfort, the enthusiasts vex its confidence…nevertheless, abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire years to come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: ‘I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!’ And you shall prevail! In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a years of praise, with all the angels forever and ever. Amen” (