Singing the right tune for the new year

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local columnist

Although I certainly wish for you and yours a happy and blessed New Year, I confess that I’m rarely terribly excited about New Year’s fanfare. (I like almost any reason for some days off and time with friends and good food, so I’m not a total New Year’s grinch by any means.)

But, to me, by far the most impressive thing about New Year’s Day is that it is the seventh day of the twelve days of the Christmas season.

Our society gets almost everything backwards, so why should we be surprised if it gets Christmas end-first and whomper-jawed? We celebrate what someone has called Hallowthankmas, and it’s a good thing Santa’s sleigh flies, or it would be skidding on Halloween candy in the street and mowing down pint-sized goblins.

I’m glad that more folks are re-discovering the wisdom of the church across the centuries and observing Advent, a time of preparation for Christ’s coming. Christmas Day arrives on the 25th, and the twelve days of the Christmas season follow.

“Glory to God in the highest,” the angels sang. The thing, you see, about Christmas is that it centers on something only God could pull off, and the only proper response to what He has done is to praise Him. The angels sing, and we join them! God has done something absolutely apart from our puny power, completely out of our reach. It was more likely that one of those shepherds at Bethlehem would cipher out the Theory of Relativity ahead of Einstein than that we could come up with a plan to save this fallen world. Christmas–the real thing–is a moment of rare sanity for the human race as we get over ourselves, focus on what God has done, and realize we can’t add to his Gift, or improve it, or in any way earn it. All we can do is accept it. We learn that since the Child came at Bethlehem, everything has changed. It’s all new.

But then comes New Year’s, and, if we’re not careful, we fall right back into our old ways. Focusing on our power and glorifying man is “business as usual” for the human race. We take center stage again and glorify not the Almighty but honor instead our puny might and our pathetic attempts to “make something” of ourselves.

I won’t be so unkind as to point you to old New Year’s resolutions and ask, “How’s that working out for you?”

If mankind could have just “tried harder” to get it (meaning, life) right, we’d not have needed a Savior. A law-giver and a law, a man-centered religion, a really good self-help book, would have been just fine. Then we could look down on others who haven’t worked as hard.

And we could forget not just the angel’s song but also the grand hymn “Amazing Grace.” “Glory to me in the highest” would be our tune instead.

Alas, “trying harder” never really works or honors God. Trusting God and living life to thank Him for what He is building in our lives does.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at