What a difference a week makes! And what a contrast between the silent night, holy night of Christmas Eve and the hoopla of New Year’s Eve. Two nights, separated by seven days, and celebrated in markedly different ways. Consider:
On New Year’s Eve, there are lights in the sky as cities and towns around the globe launch fireworks to celebrate the birth of a New Year. At Christmas, a star provided the light that guided wise men to the place where Jesus lay.
On New Year’s, shouts and cheers of joy reverberate in the streets as crowds of people, some packed together like sardines, revel in the change of years. At Christmas, the streets of Bethlehem were empty, the inns were full, and the only shouting came from a young peasant girl as she gave birth to her firstborn son.
On New Years, we sing “Auld Lang Syne,” (the phrase can be translated as “old long since” or more simply “long, long ago”) to bid farewell to the old and usher in the new. On Christmas, the shepherds heard angels sing “glory to God in the highest” as a way to say farewell to the old age that separated God and humankind, and welcome the new age of Emmanuel, God with us.
With New Year’s come resolutions and promises to make positive changes in our lives in the coming year; we hit the “refresh” button on those parts of our lives we want to change. With Christmas comes the fulfillment of God’s promise to never leave us; with the birth of Jesus, God gives us the way to “refresh” our lives by forgiving our sins and making us new creations.
The New Year’s spirit of joy and sense of newness will last a short time, about as long as a New Year’s resolution. But the joy, hope, peace and love that come from God through Jesus will last a lifetime.
To keep the joy and peace of Christmas in our hearts all year long requires that we yield our lives to God. Every day, we have to make way for God in our lives, to get ourselves out of the way so that God’s self can be formed in us. It’s hard, to be sure, and we have to work at it constantly. But that, after all, is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about.
The message of Christmas is one for the entire year. It’s God’s way of saying, in the words of Jesus: “My peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Let’s make a Christmas difference all year long. Let’s start by making a difference in our lives with a simple prayer like this: “Jesus, make me more like you this day. Let me carry the love, the joy, the hope and the peace of Christmas with me every day; and with your help, let me share them with those I meet. Amen.”