Making a New Year’s resolution can sometimes motivate us to pursue a better life; once in a while it can also sustain us to change habits. I believe that the annual pledge will be more motivational and sustaining when made before a Christmas crèche. Churches keep the holy manger scene visible and prominent throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas and we ought to take advantage of its presence, pausing before it in the quiet hours of the new year, uniting our hopes with God’s will. Gazing at the Christmas crèche, we might ask ourselves three profound questions: What do I most want for myself? What does the world most need from me? What does God most desire of my life?
As we look at the focal point—the baby boy with His arms outstretched on the wood of the crib—we realize that it foretells of the day when the grown man would stretch out His arms again on the wood of the cross. This gesture measures the width, length, height, depth, and breath of God’s love for us, a love that is made manifest in mercy for our human frailties, mindful even of our inability to remain true to who we are or our annual resolutions. Though He encourages us to be faithful, God understands our resistance, temptations, and weakness. Though our church was founded upon the cross in an act of forgiveness, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” the Lord still cheers us on and hopes for better results from us. It is in a similar way that we approach each January.
Look also to Blessed Mother Mary: she who bore Him in her womb with a love beyond all telling also allowed the sword of sorrow to pierce her heart. She remained a humble servant, offering her assent to the will of God. Similarly, Joseph relied on divine direction revealed to him in dreams in which the word of God found voice through the message of angels. Joseph and Mary had no idea what the year ahead of the manger scene might hold, let alone what their future had in store for them. They simply submitted themselves to divine companionship and guidance as the days unfolded.
I think that is essentially how we can benefit from making our New Year’s resolution while viewing a nativity scene. It is there that we unite our hopes and dreams with those of the Holy Family and unify our attitude with theirs. Even if our pledge is to get in better physical shape or be more faithful in our daily prayers or offer acts of kindness to family members or co-workers, we can unite our simple deeds with their profound example. Look also to sacred role models, from Therese of Lisieux to Teresa of Calcutta, who taught us that our little efforts can slowly change us and gradually impact our surroundings in positive ways.
We might break our resolutions or fail in our commitments a time or two, even early in the new year, but it doesn’t mean that we should give up on the goals we want to pursue and the future we want to create for ourselves. God forgives us of our shortcomings but He urges us to get back up every time we fall and recommit ourselves to becoming the person we were created to be. As we contemplate the wood of the crib and the wood of the cross at the dawning of this new year, let us resolve to have the open arms and open heart of Christ from birth to death. Let us unite our hope for ourselves with God’s will for us. Let us say with Mother Mary: Thy will be done.