Almost all of us have come to think of the new year as starting on January 1st. After all, there is New Year’s Eve the night before, the famous ball drop in Times Square, the Rose Bowl Parade, football games, special meals and many other traditions and rituals that help announce the beginning of the new year. And, not to be forgotten, the date changes…
I remember, as a young boy, the day that Dad showed me the newspaper dated January 1, 1960. I was born in the ’50’s and so that was a big change for me – the beginning of a new decade! I recall that we were at the dining room table and Dad was standing next to me as he showed me the date under the headline – it was so exciting to see the arrival of 1960 and I soon forgot all about the 1950’s. And since then, each change of a decade has brought new excitement – especially the year 2000 – Y2K as everyone referred to it. Not only the change of a decade, but also a centennial – and the change of the millennium.
We are conditioned from an early age to look at January 1st as the time of new beginnings. But there is another built in beginning that we have become accustomed to throughout our lives. That is when we return to school and begin a new grade near the end of summer. That’s right – we are conditioned to look at the new “school” year as a second beginning each year and some strange things happen at this time of year.
It is more difficult to find workers becomes moms and dads tend to take more time off until they get used to the new school schedule. The after school activities start to heat up, parent nights at school, shopping for supplies, lessons and the beginning of something new and exciting.
From a deeper perspective, it is also the time that we tend to increase our discipline after having several months off from our usual grind and have to get back down to business. More decisions get made in the fall than during the summer and we all know what it is like to go on vacation. So we tend to rebel a little as we get ready for the new season – kind of like trying to get used to a new pair of shoes.
Soon, we will be in the rhythm of the new “year” and our children will get used to their new routines. For one of our grandsons, it will be in a new school system, having moved here from Oklahoma earlier this summer. But he has taken some summer camp programs the past several months to get his used to larger classes and more people than he is used to from rural Oklahoma.
As we all look back on our past, it is easy to see how much we looked forward to summer and not being bound by the limitations that we have when we are in school. This subconsciously impacts us our entire lives as we enter the workplace and grow in our careers. But we get used to getting our discipline back as we head toward Labor Day.
It’s also easy to get out of the habits we establish with our faith. Many people take the summer “off” from church and it is not uncommon for churches to start their new fiscal year each September. So even if we don’t think about it, most of us tend to slack a little when it comes to our spiritual disciplines. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our Bible study group continues to meet throughout the summer. And as you know, I didn’t stop writing during the summer months. That’s because I know how difficult it would be to start up again if I were to take it easy for a while. The Bible is something that we should continue to study regardless of what time of year it is. And, of course, we should work on our relationship with God each day of the year as well.
So as we get used to the new patterns of the fall and all that it entails with our new schedules, let’s make sure that we make time for our spiritual growth as well. Our verse for tonight reflects how easy it is to lose the discipline of staying close to God. Solomon, the author of Proverbs, tells us, in Proverbs 10:17, “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.”
My encouragement this evening is that God rebukes us when we need correction, but He also expects us to practice self-discipline. My prayer is that we will honor our Creator and God with time that we spend in community with Him and that as we start this “new year” we will all re-dedicate ourselves to working on our human relationships as well. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…