It’s a little like being Cinderella. The moment the clock strikes midnight everything changes. Except that rather than rags to riches we go from feast to famine, and instead of losing a shoe we lose the will to live.
The minute New Year’s Eve turns to New Year’s Day a peculiar change takes hold of the world as we know it. It throttles us until we bend to its will: NEW YEAR, NEW YOU.
Adverts that preached excess and indulgence at Christmas swiftly change their tune to discipline and determination. Bookshops mutilate their gift and humour displays, leaving in their wake dieting and de-cluttering manuals.
It is like falling victim to cultural whiplash. One minute we are festive, family-orientated and telling ourselves to be merry and bright. The next we are told we are nowhere near thin, pretty or talented enough. In the blink of an eye we have become desperately in need of a total lifestyle overhaul.
We fall for it every year, even though it makes us miserable. It’s another sales tactic. We know it, yet our fingers inch towards the self-help pages as if they have a mind of their own. Surely we realise that we aren’t striving for God’s ideal?
God didn’t create the world to breed jealousy, dissatisfaction and self-hatred. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead to sell something. No! He is GIVING us something. Not something we dare ask for because the gift of everlasting life is too great, and certainly not stocked in the John Lewis catalogue.
He gives us GRACE.
Yes, I find it difficult too. In a world where self improvement is an art form, where people have built their livelihoods on making us feel inadequate, where we are defined by our weight, our Facebook friends, Instagram likes and bank balances, it seems implausible that God loves us just the way we are. All he asks for in return is our commitment of obedience, faith and love.
Everywhere we look in the story of our Saviour this message is repeated.
We do not have to be strong: The apostle Paul wrote, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
We are not made whole by great works or achievements: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
We don’t have to transform: “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:11)
‘New Year New You’ may be a good tag-line, perhaps an even better sales pitch, but it cannot buy you happiness, hope, or a happily ever after.
Our happily ever after lies not in guilt, or sacrifice, or resolutions, but in the acceptance of grace, to allow our imperfect selves to be loved, just as we are, by our Creator and his Son, who died, that we may live.