The arrival of the first of January means much more than just a new year. More than perhaps any time in the last fifty years, the landscape of the world around us is rife with changes - a kind of "newness" quite different from that which the Lord referred when He declared, "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5).
It is sometimes tempting for Orthodox Christians to throw in the towel when it comes to struggling against the maelstrom of social and spiritual changes swirling around us. Confronted by the reality that we are living in the midst of a collapsing civilization, issues of the day - from decadent morality, to political manipulation, to thoughtless approaches to our physical security - can be paralyzing in the discouragement they can bring. It is certainly no mind in which to begin a new year.
It should not surprise us when we find no satisfaction in a world gone mad - and in truth, we were never supposed to do so. The pressing question for those who hope to survive life in this fallen world, through the path of Orthodox Christianity, is this: will we decide in the new year to live as Orthodox Christians?
This is much more than a question of our church attendance, the books we read, or even our prayers and tithes. All these simply provide the groundwork for the single choice we make every day, and every moment: Do we choose to become more like the world, or to become more like Christ?
The question is entirely practical. If we watch and listen to the same things as everyone else, we will become more like the world, and less like Christ. If we spend our leisure time and our money on the same things as everyone else, we will value and seek after the things of the world, and not Christ. If we educate ourselves and or children on the same knowledge and ideas as everyone else, we will become much less like Christ, and - unquestionably and inevitably - just the same as everyone else.
Let's face it: everyone else is not doing well coping with the onslaught of change afflicting us today. Even some Orthodox Christians, desiring to fit in well and to succeed in the world, are turning aside from Christ, His Church, and the experience of Her holy ones. As that eminent philosopher Forrest Gump once said, stupid is as stupid does.
It is simply foolish to believe that we can by ourselves weather the storm of a disintegrating world, by using the methods and mindset of the world. As we start a new year, we need to ask ourselves - about every aspect in our lives - what must I do to live like an Orthodox Christian, and to take on the struggles and victories that have always been the life of the saints?
The Orthodox faith has equipped millions of faithful to flourish during their lifetimes and to save their souls for eternity; the era in which one lives makes little difference.
The key to gaining a truly new New Year can be found in the decisions we set out to make in every moment of our lives in the next twelve months - decisions to be like Christ, or to be more like the world.