Christmas is a time of remembrance.
The season guides us to reminisce about the joys and sorrows of years past, filling our days with favorite movies, nostalgic treats, thoughts of cherished loved ones, and stories from the old days, all swiftly swirling around an ancient story of a baby born in Bethlehem on a silent night. Those defining moments of the past bring us clarity and comfort. Yet while the Christmas lights still glow from rooftops and town squares, the calendar marches on to the 26th, then the 27th, then the 28th until we find ourselves shifting gears, moving in a new direction with a new focus at a different pace.
We leave behind that time of year where our eyes are focused pointedly on the past, and lift our gaze towards the uncertain promise of what is ahead. The familiar sounds and surroundings of Christmas Past give way to the brimming but uncertain blurriness of Future.
The Last Week of the Year, those precious days nestled between Past and Future, are strikingly Present, and allow us that rare opportunity to breathe in the air that is no longer the Old Year, but not quite yet the New.
For most of us, each year brings new hope and blessings, but also brings its fair share of change and disillusionment, our news feeds filling up with heated opinions of politics and religion and culture and every trifle imaginable.
Which makes me realize that we spend so much of our precious time on things that ultimately aren’t all that important.
We argue about trivialities until we lose focus and become spread thin.
We become frazzled, angry, ineffective and discouraged.
We go to bed at night realizing that we are somehow missing out on the things that matter and waking up in the morning overwhelmed before we even start the day.
These problems aren’t going away on their own anytime soon, and there will be plenty to distract and deter us in every New Year. With the promise of what is new, there certainly will be old struggles that follow us in the journey. But as the lights and decorations come down and the world continues on at a new pace, the same promise of hope we spoke of at Christmas still remains bright and tangible in January as much as it is in December.
The last week of the year gives us a moment to prepare for what is coming. These last few days where Christmas starts to become a distant memory can become an opportunity to pray, plan, and prepare.
These days give us opportunity to not only make meaningful resolutions that will carry us into a new day, but to make a renewed commitment to lay our burdens down and entrust our days to our Father in Heaven.
It gives us a new chance to, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 73:7).
It gives us a clear opportunity to “Be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right hand or the left”(Proverbs 5:32).
Fighting off the ever-present tendency to be distracted and tossed about by whatever the world is throwing at us, the New Year can truly be a new start, a year of reinvention, determined focus, and change for the better.
Certainly there is nothing magical about the flip of the calendar, but it represents a clean break, a new hope, and a blank canvas.
May this Last Week of the Year be a defining moment that refocuses our energies and clears all that is peripheral, until all that remains is all that matters.
May this year be the year that our hearts and minds are filled with wisdom instead of rashness, patience instead of impulse, and forgiveness instead of bitterness. We can do it if we use this last week of the year to get a head start.