New Year ’s Day, like 2016, is now in the past and most of us are back at work, back at school and back to routine. The last of the Christmas fudge is now gone and we are dutifully promising to do better this year; or at least this month; or maybe just this week.
I have never been one to stay up for the arrival of the New Year, mainly because staying up that late is difficult for me. For fifty years now I have discovered that the New Year arrives whether I am awake or not. Still, I like the days leading up to the New Year as well as the days following it, because it affords me a time of reflection. It is a type of religious experience for me.
Each year, usually in the early fall, my Jewish friends observe Yom Kippur, which is a kind of New Year. It marks the end of the year and a time to prepare for the coming year. Yom Kippur, meaning “Day of Atonement,” is the holiest day of the year for Jews around the world. I admit the name itself sounds a bit foreboding and heavy.
In contrast New Year’s Day is pretty much a secular day around the world, prefaced by parties and over-indulgence. For me it serves as my own kind of Yom Kippur. It affords me the opportunity to look back, reflect, ask forgiveness and see what I need to do for the coming year that will be different, better, and more compassionate.
Only a fool thinks one can live life without regrets. Life for all of us, honestly reflected upon, always has regrets. We look back and see failures, disappointments, and lapses of judgment, and wrong turns – most of which cannot be undone. And so in looking back we acknowledge before God our frailty and dependence.
The practice of confession and repentance are essential for Jews and Christians alike. We take inventory to learn; to engage hope; and to re-imagine life in the New Year.
Atonement, like Yom Kippur, is essential too. Atonement literally means to be made one (at-one-ment) with God.
And I believe beyond all of the other theological divisions that are often drawn up, the one thing that can unite us and give us strength is the idea, the belief, that God wants to be made one with us. Anything else leaves us divided, partial, and fragmented.
The fragmented remains of 2016 are just a memory. For me there is so much good that I gratefully encountered. There are a few missteps, mistakes and disappointments too. Thus far God has brought me and I look ahead trusting that God will see me safely into another year, one day, one moment, at a time.