What Happens Now?

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Well, it’s all over for another year. Frenzied looting and pillaging of Valley malls and local merchandisers for that perfect gift is now a fading memory. Consider waiting a couple of weeks before opening the VISA bill.

Only a few crumbs of encrusted fudge remain in the once burgeoning holiday tins. Forget about where the rest of its contents ended up.

Payson health clubs are enjoying a renaissance of such as locals put feet (and arms) to their well-intended New Year’s resolutions. This year will be different, by golly! Time will tell.

The once noble Fir that dutifully, even elegantly bore gleaming strings of bulbs and ornaments of Christmas memories gone by has now slumped its weary shoulders — cast to the curb, destined to the area incinerator after weeks of faithful service. Is there not some grave injustice in this?

Relaxed holiday schedules conjoined with unused vacation days allowed many to continue, or possibly even complete, home projects initiated last Christmas break. Is a celebration in order?

What of the unfettered feelings of peace, hope —euphoric joy that ushered in this past Christmas season like an island breeze in Bismarck? Even the irreligious get more than a bit caught up in the unmistakable jubilation that appears, as if by magic, around Nov. 25. It’s simply contagious!

So what’s the problem? Why the long faces … labored sighs … vacant stares? Peace fades. Hope leaks. Joy, after a painfully short visit, too often evaporates like steam rising off a mug of peppermint mocha. “Business as usual” reappears, uninvited; making an unapologetic plug for an immediate return to normal life which, to be frank, doesn’t feel much like living at all. The buzz from copy room to front desk — and everywhere in between — has a familiar, almost haunting refrain: “What happens now?”

Dec. 25, 2010 represented Christmas number 51 for this author. Though every prior holiday season ensued with great anticipation, each successive departure produced equal melancholy of the soul. Surely not so soon! Can’t the spirit of Christmas be suspended indefinitely? As glorious as any Yuletide season is or has been, January second is always a stark reminder that the mission of the Messiah is not yet complete. The world’s brokenness is very much universal. So, the gravity of a typical post-Christmas existence begs the age-old question: What happens now? Can’t we file a holiday extension … expanding the beauty and benefits of the most hopeful time of the year?

The answer is “yes” … to a large degree. All hope is not extinguished with the final candle or upon sealing the last holiday box. The Bible, from which the Christmas story derives, clearly demonstrates that the birth of the babe, though central to the initial celebration, is but the commencement of a much larger redemptive story. For those willing to probe further, Christmas need not be a disappointing end but an expectant inauguration … a springboard to an ever deepening understanding … a vibrant and truly hopeful approach to life throughout the New Year.

How, then, is the helpless progression into the New Year doldrums abated? The answer is simple, but not simplistic. The solution is more process than procedure. Learning to redeem each day begins with purposeful questions instead of rote, mindless answers. Try these three seminal questions on for size:

• Why am I here?

Was I placed on this planet for a specific reason? Most, it seems, are seeking asylum from an increasingly random and meaningless existence. But if life is truly meaningless, then spike all the eggnog you can as often as you can and bunker down. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die (or wish you could). The Christmas season may dull the ache of a robotic existence for a time, but little more. If human existence has a purpose, however, a much more encouraging possibility is unearthed. Consider a second question:

• Is there more?

This question, also, requires further probing. Am I meant for more than pleasure-seeking endeavors? Feverish collecting and hoarding of material possessions? Playing it safe; avoiding all potential pain? Surviving another shift … another year at the factory? The bigger story of the Bible affirms, conclusively, that there is more; much more. Logically, then, a final question is required:

• Where do I begin?

The definition of insanity is as follows: doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result. How many are caught in this vicious cycle and don’t even know it? Be honest. Look back over the past year. What did you do … accomplish that truly mattered; that made a difference for yourself or others? Have you attempted or completed anything that matters beyond this life … anything of eternal consequence? It is only when one begins to ask and answer such questions that life takes on true meaning … during the Christmas season and beyond.

Interested in knowing more? If so, consider the following challenge. Attend an area Bible-believing church for the next four consecutive weeks. Listen specifically for answers to the prior posed questions. Reject preconceived feelings and attitudes about faith — especially negative ones. Ask lots more questions and carve out some time to listen — with an open mind. By following this formula, you just may have the happiest New Year ever!

About the author

Jim Harper is the pastor of Mountain Bible Church, 302 E. Rancho Road, Payson. Services are at 8:45 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Sunday.

To learn more about the church and its programs, call (928) 472-7800.

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