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To me, New Year's has never felt like much of anything to celebrate. You can count me among those who have been severely disappointed by the dropping ball in Times Square. I remember hearing about it as a kid, and trying very hard to stay up until midnight so I could watch the spectacle on TV. I was about 12 when I finally managed to do it, and was shocked by how anticlimactic the whole thing was. I had expected the glass ball to fall from a great height, and shatter into a million pieces. When it turned out that all the hype was actually about a ball that inched its way down a pole only to set off a series of lights as the clock struck midnight, I couldn't understand why anyone would bother to stay up for the broadcast, let alone go out into the cold to actually be there.
I've tried a few different approaches to New Year's Eve and Day over the years: staying home and staying up, going out or just going to bed, tuning in to the Rose Parade or the football games, or watching the entirety of the Lord of the Rings all in one sitting. No matter what, I've never been able to escape the sense that the occasion is mostly an excuse for overpriced and crowded events, or worse yet, bad behavior. But this year, I've come to the conclusion that perhaps I am, and have been, wrong about the whole thing. Maybe I've been just a bit too comfortable with the fatalism I was raised with, and too willing to listen to the voices that tell me things don't really change, and people even less so.
Look, I know that changing a calendar doesn't mean much in itself. But the opportunity for a fresh start can, and does. A new year doesn't mean that things won't be just the same as they have been in every preceding year. But it does mean they don't have to be. Things do, after all, pass away. They last a season or two or 10 or 110, and are gone. But if you think about it, what follows is strangely never any emptier; just different. And that's the problem.
Different means I can't count on things being what they are; I can't even count on myself being what I am the way I am forever. (That's probably a good thing.) Change means I have to keep facing the fact that I am not in charge. (That's probably a good thing, too!) The reality of people and things passing away forces me to acknowledge losses, perhaps even to grieve them. But it also challenges me to live fully in the present moment, with gratitude for what is but may not always be.
I think God loves New Year's festivities, at least I think he does in theory. After all, he is always doing something new, or bringing in something or someone unexpected. And it seems that he does not intend to stop until he has "made all things new." That, it would seem, includes all things and all someones.
I think God loves surprises, maybe because he really can't be surprised himself. I, on the other hand, am often too afraid to enjoy a good surprise. Though I do like to orchestrate them for other people, I wish I could stop my white-knuckle death-grip long enough to allow myself to be surprised.
So, I've decided to give the whole New Year's thing a whirl. I'm not going to do the big internal retrospective this time, noting what has been lost or appears to be fading. Instead, I'm going to give the year to God, along with all the people and things in it, and let him renew us all.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.