According to history.com, as many as 45 percent of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. But that dismal record probably won’t stop people from making resolutions anytime soon—after all, we’ve had about 4,000 years of practice.
The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year—though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted.
A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome, after the reform-minded emperor Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar and established January 1 as the beginning of the new year circa 46 B.C. Janus was the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, thought to look backward to the previous year, and forward to the new year. The Romans, making promises of good conduct in the coming year made sacrifices to Janus.
For early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the new year. Now popular within evangelical Protestant churches, especially African American denominations and congregations, watch night services held on New Year’s Eve are often spent praying and making resolutions for the coming year.
…most people today make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement (which may explain why such resolutions seem so hard to follow through on).
Personally, I find the best new years resolution it to not make any new years resolutions!
But if we did (or do) what comes to mind is Micah 6:8:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Then Mark 12:29-31:
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
30 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no commandment greater than these.”
We should pray for others – and ourselves – not to be prosperous, or successful, or even to be happy. We should pray for the spiritual fullness that only Jesus Christ can give; the creation of the “well of living water” in each of us, that overflows to those around us, that gives glory to God every day.
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.”