Melancholy is such a good word for this time of year for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun mostly hides as bad weather makes repeated appearances in grey. Colds and covid and flu stalk us at work and school and on errands. Vacation opportunities seem very distant. You can call it the post-Christmas blues, the cold weather blues, or sunlight deprivation (SAD). No matter what you call it, we all need to know how to live with joy after the Christmas lights are put away and we’re left with Christmas bills, an extra five pounds, and a touch of winter melancholy—and in no great shape to keep any kind of New Year resolutions and intentions. Our passion for Jesus is still there somewhere, or maybe just in hibernation or on the wane, or exhausted. That edge of excitement may have disappeared, and that rich passion of our early faith may have lost a bit of its bloom. With no holiday excitement of sweet birth stories, miraculous conceptions, and dream motivated escapes we’re left with the “regular” stories of Jesus in Ordinary Time to sustain us.
It is a challenge is to hang on to the wonder of Jesus; it’s not easy to live in wonder at the King of Kings and Prince of Peace post-Christmas. The problem, of course, is us. Jesus is just as wonderful and His grace is just as boundless on January 16 as it was on December 25. The problem is with us and our expectations and sense of wonder and commitment. So let me issue you a challenge to hang on to Jesus past Christmas this year. Make a resolve to passionately pursue Him and a deeper and abiding awareness of His presence in your life. It may be time to make some resolutions for our souls.
Take time to pray and to reflect. Jen Pollock Michel, author of “A Habit Called Faith” and “Surprised by Paradox” suggests a journal or check over your calendar and pencil in some time to ask what is working well in life and what is not.
Plant seeds of humility. Engage with someone not of your viewpoint with the intention of learning from them.
Care for the earth in small ways. Work to be conscious of loving our neighbors by being awake and aware to our personal use and consumption. Make some changes. Small things add up.
Think about the third person. “Every time we act, our actions affect more people than we actually see. One of the hallmarks of Catholic social teaching is solidarity, recognizing that we are all connected as human beings and that our own well-being is tied up with the well-being of others.” (The Rev. Jonathan Mitchican, Catholic priest and writer.) In other words: we forget that in interacting with someone, they interact with someone else. Be positive in your encounters.
Engage with the offscreen world first. A daily dose of real-life awareness before we entangle ourselves with our tech—how about beginning the day by praising God before reaching for the phone or remote?
Seek racial justice and healing. This is about building racial and cultural awareness by forging relationships with a variety of people. There is so much we can learn and understand from how others live.
Take stock of your life every week. John Newton, the 18th-century Anglican cleric and abolitionist, had a Saturday at 6 p.m. exercise to help him get ready for Sunday. Make two lists: all the mercies, blessings and good things to be thankful for that had happened in the week, and another list of the week’s sins of omission and commission. Go to reconciliation and then re-dedicate your life to goodness and holiness.
Keep the Sabbath. One day a week to rest in God and Godly pursuits. Rest is God’s Very Good Idea (Trillia Newbell).
Encourage the people around you. Make a reSOULution to look for an opportunity every day to give encouragement to anyone in our path: whether a family member, colleague, a cashier or a child. Encouragement benefits us, too.
Pray for political leaders—especially ones you don’t like. Make your prayers those of gratitude for the things they do well, for the people whose lives they help improve, for the ways they contribute to human flourishing. If you can’t come up with anything, ask yourself if it’s because they need to change or because you need to change. (Reconciliation!)
Read the Bible. Make Matthew, Mark, Luke and John this year’s tour guides.
Resolutions for change are difficult—the deeper problem is the “triumph of hope over expectation.” Reconcile expectations. The only way to change the path of expectation is to face and dissect why any of our resolutions failed before. That road leads to many unexpected destinations far beyond simple willpower. Changing anything requires a strategic plan—maybe set in small steps. Start by sitting down and seeing what may be possible and what needs to be prioritized. Begin with just praying for the guidance to see and understand what drives us in our day to day; and then resolve to do better in this New Year.