And just like that, Christmas is over.
Living rooms now contain cold corners where Christmas trees once stood. Decorations have disappeared in homes and stores. Christmas music—the mere thrill of playing it in November—now feels a little stale. The pace has geared down to a trudge. Christmas goodies found on every aisle in every store are now crammed into a single space with giant 50%-off signs. The snow and chill of December often described as white and brilliant are now considered gray and bone-chilling.
The week after Christmas serves as a reality check that real life continues to roll on.
We attempt to extend the hope of the holidays one final time on December 31—New Year’s Eve. People will gather all over the world to count down the final ten seconds of 2022 before shouting, amidst a flurry of confetti: “Happy New Year!”
Then, the social construct goes, millions will drink their body weight in liquor and start kissing strangers.
And then, just like that, the celebration of New Year’s Eve is over (though millions will celebrate the start of 2023 with a killer hangover).
So why do millions scream out “Happy New Year” precisely at midnight?
Perhaps it’s just the thing people say.
Still, how many of us are actually conscious of the collective wish the moment we wake up the next morning?
Most don’t, and even won’t, think about it until the next December 31.
So why is celebrating the new year so important?
To some, welcoming in a new year is simply a sigh of relief; 2022 was a difficult year for them. While there may have been good times and blessings, overwhelming stress and loss seemed to predominate. They’re just thankful they made it through the sorrows and uncertainties. They see the new year as a blank slate, a fresh start.
Others see the new year as a challenge, a time to reassess their goals, improve their circumstances, or plan new adventures. The new year is a springboard to exciting new things. They proclaim that 2023 is their year.
Unfortunately, both of these approaches are doomed to failure. For the first group, stress and grief are not going to grind to a halt with the turning of the calendar year. Come January 2, the struggles will still be there. They will likely continue in one manner or another.
For the second group, they will find they are in control of nothing. Don’t get me wrong; goals are great and helpful. However, when we couch them as “resolutions” made traditionally on a single day, they’re forgotten by the end of the month, masked by the typical doldrums of life. Further, life is incredibly skilled at throwing curve balls when you least expect it. Whatever was the center of focus on New Year’s Eve goes out the window with the first setback. Members of this second group might even find themselves in the first group by the end of the year.
Ironically, those from the first group might even find themselves next December with an unexpected promotion or adventure.
The truth is, we just don’t know what 2023 holds for each of us.
So, does this make the “Happy New Year” an empty wish?
Not at all.
To have a happy 2023 has nothing to do with a clean slate or goals no matter how clearly defined. A happy new year is not about surviving loss or stress. Nor is it about accomplished resolutions.
Either one of those perspectives can be achieved yet neither automatically warrants a happy new year.
To live with happiness in the new year is to live with the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death, “Not my will but your will be done” (Luke 22:42).
For me, this is one of the hardest prayers in the Bible.
For the group that celebrates the new year as a new start, it could mean the suffering will continue. Life will always carry suffering and grief. Who wants that?
What it does mean, however, is suffering knowing that Jesus will be in it with them.
For the second group, the idea of giving up control and letting God’s will be done is a little unsettling.
Whatever the case, a happy new year means living in the peace and strength of Jesus come what may.
2023 is staring us in the face. No one on earth knows exactly how it will end.
For true happiness in the new year, we must cling to the robe of the one who transcends time.
Jesus is the only certainty we have. And resting in the peace of Christ is ultimately that which will bring the happiness we all seek.