So now we come to the time of year for making New Year’s resolutions. And I only have one thing to say to you about making those resolutions. Don’t.
The problem with New Year’s resolutions is, first of all, that they don’t work. We vow to lose weight or get in shape or whatever, and sometimes we are successful with at least part of that. But I have almost never met anyone who kept a New Year’s resolution for more than a few weeks.
But the real problem with resolutions is that they don’t do what we hope they will do. At the heart of every New Year’s resolution is a voice inside of us that says, “You’re not good enough.” The voice tells us that we have to weigh less or work out more or stop smoking, and the hidden message is that we are not really worthy of being loved or of loving ourselves unless we do these things. And our secret self hopes that if we can just lose the weight or go to the gym every day we will find that love that we are missing. So we launch into whatever self-improvement program we have in mind, but after a week or two or three, we realize that we still feel inadequate, that no matter what we do, we still don’t feel good enough. And so, feeling worse about ourselves than when we started, we quit.
What we really want is to know that we are loved and precious just as we are. People never achieve lasting change when they feel inadequate. The only way we achieve real change is from the conviction that we are loveable and acceptable. And that knowledge never comes from ourselves. We can’t convince ourselves that we are precious or lovable. The only voice that can really tell us that in a way that we can trust is the voice of God. But how do we know that God loves us just as we are? Too often, the voice we think is the voice of God is the voice of an angry parent for whom we are never good enough. What proof do we have that God loves us that much?
It is the fact of Christmas that tells us. God’s gift in Jesus is the gift of himself, of infinite love coming down into a limited human being. God’s love for us is so passionate that he was willing to give up the universe in order to be part of our world, in order to teach us and heal us and die for us. That is the greatest love. And when we know that, then we know that we are good enough just as we are. And when we know that, we are free to make new choices or different choices. We can lose weight or stop smoking because we want to, not because we are driven by our own inadequacy.
God loves you just as you are. God will love you just as much whether or not you go to the gym or lose ten pounds. God will love you just as much no matter what you do or who you are. You are good enough, and, in fact, you are better than good enough. You are precious and special, and God delights in you – just as you are.
The coming of Jesus is about transformation, about lives being changed from the inside out. When we try to change ourselves, we are trying to force change from the outside in. We can be transformed, but not by our own struggling attempts. We can only be transformed by love.
So if you want to make a New Year’s resolution this year that will last, resolve to let God love you. Resolve to open yourself to the voice which tells you that you are the reason why God came down from heaven in Jesus. Learn to hear that loving voice speaking in your heart and mind.
If you do that, you will find yourself being changed in ways that you would never have imagined and which are truly lasting.
And if you want something to read that will help with that, read the passage from the Gospel of John that we just read. I have read that passage every year for as long as I have been ordained, and every year I understand a little bit better. It’s all about how much God loves us.
I wish you a New Year filled with true happiness and God’s love.