Have you ever noticed the dramatic change that takes place the week following Christmas from “peace on earth” to “let’s let it all hang out”?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #126 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
In my recollection, when I was a kid, most people enjoyed the Christmas season right on into the New Year’s. These days, I’m not so sure if most people still enjoy the season, though I assume it’s reasonable to say many people do.
But Christmas to New Year’s involves a big shift, at least I always thought it did and I still do. What I mean is there is a palpable transformation in tone from the few weeks leading up to and including Christmas on into the week following Christmas up to New Year’s Day.
Before Christmas, people catch the Christmas spirit. Gas station clerks wish you “Merry Christmas.” People at the airport, though harried by travel, for the most part are excited, happy, and pleasant. Retail stores brim with red and green, bright colorful lights, and various representations of Christmas, whether religious or secular.
Then Christmas is suddenly over and in one fell swoop, people’s moods change.
Gas station clerks return to their often seen-it-all surly selves. People at the airport are manic and driven. Retail stores still brim with color, but Christmas disappears fast, moved to the discount section, and customers take on a frenzied push to find the right foods for the planned blowout New Year’s Eve.
Media, especially television, really evidences this mood swing. Sure, there’s a few Christmas themes, commercials, and classic films still on air, along with football bowl games, but the big push is New Year’s Eve – ads about celebrities, singers and bands, and a lot parties. In fact, it’s a take a walk on the wild side atmosphere from here on out.
The focus is the upcoming last midnight of the old year and ringing in the new year.
Nothing wrong with this per se, but I’ve always felt the values being expressed were radically different from the week before Christmas. Earlier, it was silent night, love, home, family and friends, tranquility, peace on earth. With New Year’s, it is raucous rowdiness, sensuality, hit the clubs, noise, revelry-around-the-world, bacchanalia, the ball dropping in Times Square, and maybe most of all, drinking, a lot of drinking.
It’s probably the latter that makes me react. An endless evening of shallow celebrities expressing how ostensibly happy they are in their carousing status.
Maybe part of my pullback is that I have never been a drinker. I don’t think it is a sin, per se, to drink alcoholic beverages. Excess or drunkenness is the real problem.
That said, I do think drinking alcohol is like playing with fire. Clearly, many people cannot handle it and succumb to alcoholism. Even for those who don’t become substance abusers – like so many Hollywood and entertainment stars, a community that year-after-year lose a few to the all-too-predictable endgame of their addiction, for example, “Friends” star Matthew Perry, who at 54 years of age recently drowned in his hot tub. He was not drunk and in fact had apparently been sober for some time, but he struggled with years of alcohol abuse, surgeries, treatments, and prescribed drugs to assist his return to normalcy. However, his autopsy showed he died of acute effects of ketamine, a drug designed to treat anxiety and depression. He’d apparently taken too much, which resulted in unconsciousness, and he slipped below the water. In other words, one of the variables in his early death is traceable to his long abuse of alcohol.
In 2012, once-in-a-generation singing voice Whitney Houston died similarly at 48 years of age, drowning in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel. Alcohol was a factor, while her “toxicology report found that ‘cocaine and metabolites’ contributed to her passing.” There is incredible sadness in this kind of early, avoidable demise. In 1991, to open Super Bowl XXV, Whitney Houston sang the “Star Spangled Banner.” Her presentation was so special, so goose-pimple-producing, it is yet regarded as one of the best renditions of the National Anthem ever sung and may be watched on YouTube. So, losing Whiney to alcohol and substance abuse is dreadfully sad.
But even among those who don’t abuse alcohol, there are the special occasions like New Year’s when there seems to be an expectation and an acceptable excuse. So people get drunk because, well, Hey, everybody’s partying, and some later die in vehicle accidents, some get pregnant, and some embarrass themselves physically or in what they say or do while drunk. Remember actor Mel Gibson’s horrid antisemitic comments he made while knockdown drunk, comments that yet stain his legacy in the film industry.
In my view, all this is celebrated in the party-hardy motif of New Year’s Eve. Lost in this are the “Silent Night, Holy Night” values of Christmas.
Now you could say, Rogers, you’re just a prude, or maybe, Rogers, you’re just getting old. Maybe. But my unease with the riotous living of New Year’s Eve doesn’t change the fact it all takes place worldwide.
This year, ringing in 2024 takes place under the shadow of threat assessments warning of potential terrorism. God forbid that any attacks happen, but the threat is viable. “Heightened security measures in the hours ahead of and after ringing in 2024” are in place for New York City’s Times Square. “The move comes after the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies warned police departments across the country about potential threats to large crowds celebrating the holiday, including from lone actors motivated by the Israel-Hamas war.”
France is on very high alert. “German police are planning one of their largest security operations in Berlin. In light of the Middle East conflict, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said she was ‘concerned that New Year's Eve could once again be a day on which we experience blind rage and senseless violence.’”
Similar concerns focus on New Year’s Day parades and football bowl games featuring large, concentrated crowds. Unprecedented security efforts will take place during the Rose Parade and at the Rose Bowl.
Year 2024 is an unknown to all of us looking into the future. None of us are Nostradamus, who was not all that accurate a prognosticator himself. We hope to avoid pandemics and protests, wars, rumors of wars, and culture wars. But whatever 2024 entails, as believers we can rely upon the providence, the presence, the promises, and the peace of God.
We know God is Sovereign. He is the Creator, and he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. We know there is no such thing as luck, fate, destiny, or “May the Force be with you.” Rather, in the vernacular, we know God the Heavenly Father is providentially in charge.
We know God is with us. His son, Jesus, and our Savior is called Immanuel, “God with us.” We know Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20). We know Jesus also said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5). The Holy Spirit “himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). We know we are never, no matter what we experience, outside of the presence of God.
We know God keeps his word and fulfills every promise. Scripture says, “You know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed” (Josh 23:14). We know that “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Lk 18:27). God is God, our God, today and tomorrow, and his promise stands even to be with us in the valley of the shadow of death. (Ps 23).
We know, too, that only in the Lord there is peace. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(Jn 16:33).
Whatever the new year brings, trust in God’s providence, experience his presence, lean on his promises, and enjoy his peace. And celebrate the spirit of Christmas throughout 2024.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2024
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