Consider doing a 'new thing' in the New Year

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Joe Crowley

Many of us will have just celebrated New Year's Day. However, not all in the world celebrate their New Year's Day on Jan. 1.

Jewish communities will celebrate their new year, Rosh Hashanah, on Sept. 30 at sundown through nightfall Oct. 1 this year. The Chinese Lunar New Year's Day will be observed Feb. 5. One writer cataloged 26 different cultures' various New Year's Days!

Regardless, these celebrations mark the "end of something" and a "new beginning."

Perhaps, for you, 2018 was full of joy. Possibly, this past year left much to be desired. In some cases, last year brought pain, uncertainty and disappointment.

I suspect that most of us had some experiences in 2018 that we wished had been better, more fun, more profitable, and less stressful. Whatever our circumstances, almost all of us hope for a better "new year" in 2019 - no matter how we mark the calendar.

About 2,700 years ago, a Hebrew prophet wrote of an encouraging word from God: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland" (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Alongside that good news, the people were told that God is one, "who blots out your transgressions ... and remembers your sins no more" (Isaiah 43:25). This promise is found in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian "Old Testament") and brings words of comfort shared by Jews and Christians alike.

But whether you are a person of faith or not, the idea of a "new thing" and the thought that our transgressions could be blotted out and no longer remembered is an intriguing prospect.

It doesn't take much exposure to daily life, politics and world news to hope for some change from the discord, incivility and suffering that is so visible.

Are you longing for a change that will produce a better 2019? One wise author observed that, "There is no ... change fairy. There is only the change made by the hands of individuals."

Men and women of faith assert that it is God who inclines our hearts to do good. Nonetheless, it is we - here and now - who are the instruments of that task.

In short, we are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe those in need, shelter the alien, care for the sick and incarcerated, and offer forgiveness. One does not need to be a person of faith to realize that each one of us is that agent of some "new thing."

For this New Year, what "new thing" will you commit to doing? Where can you fit in - whether to do, to encourage, or to listen - so that, in 2019, you will be a real part of the "new thing" for which you long so fervently?

Try it. Do a "new thing." Happy New Year!

Joe Crowley is director of adult discipleship at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. jcrowleydmin@gmail.com

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