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"The Quirks of New Year's" - Monday Moment - January 1, 2024

Happy Monday and Happy New Year, my friends! Welcome to 2024! It’s easy to remember where we were and what we were doing on New Year’s (even if the details are a bit foggy). I remember December 31, 1999, when people around the world nervously waited for January 1, 2000, both because the new millennium might spell the end of the world or at least the beginning of the apocalypse and because despite extensive effort to the contrary, no one was quite sure if our computer infrastructure was prepared to handle the switch from 12-31-1999 to 1-1-2000. For 12-year-old me that night exposed some of the quirks of the yearly switch from one year to the next.


First, when does the year actually begin? While Y2K and the potential computer and network problems that never materialized was time zone specific, anyone who claims that each new year is the end of the world has to contend with exactly when does the new year begin. For the new millennium, even if we granted that what we called the year 2000 had been calculated correctly and was 2000 years precisely after the birth of Jesus—spoiler: it wasn’t—there was never a year 0. The year 1 BC (BCE) was followed immediately by 1 AD (CE). Therefore, the start of the new millennium occurred a year later on January 1, 2001. Setting that aside, there are 24 time zones on earth (or 38 or 40, depending on which source you want to use). If the world is going to end or if the apocalypse is going to begin, in which time zone will that occur? Given that Jerusalem is a major site in three world religions, perhaps at 12am on January 1 there? If so, then it would be 5pm on December 31 in Ohio. Yes, time is a human construct which we apply quite imperfectly to the world, but if something of consequence is going to happen, knowing a general time would be helpful.


Second, hope for a better year ahead. I remember how hopeful people seemed to be in December 2019. Political observers were gearing up for an election year and many people were counting down the days until a certain president was set to be voted out of office. The world was ready to move on. Within three months of New Year’s Eve the world was effectively shut down. Fast forward to December 31, 2020, people the world over kept saying, “Nothing could be as bad as 2020!” For the first time the new year gave me no hope. I imagined the history books in fifty to a hundred years stating, “They thought that nothing could be as bad as 2020, but then 2021 arrived.” While I admit 2021 was better for me in many ways than 2020—I started working at LOVEboldly in 2021—my capacity to view the new year with hope and optimism was greatly wounded.


Third, and you had to know this was coming, new year resolutions. Every year people make resolutions to get healthier, lose weight, and be more active. They resolve to read more, volunteer more, go to church more frequently, pray more. They resolve to call their family more often, connect with friends without needing to schedule phone calls—yes, millennials do this. New year resolutions are so ingrained in our American society that we see additional ads for gyms, weight loss programs, borderline snake oil supplements, tobacco cessation programs, and spa packages masquerading as addiction recovery programs. Most Americans break their resolutions by February 1, if they make it that long.


Speaking of resolutions, you can guess that I didn’t make any, but because the January Term course I wanted to take got cancelled and I decided against taking any other J-Term courses, I chose to hold the second half of December and the majority of January to read a few of the books which have been in my queue for a while including The Queer God by Marcella Althaus-Reid and Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton. I’m looking forward to sharing some insights from those books in future Monday Moments.


What are you taking with you from 2023? What are you excited about in 2024?


Let us pray: God, we are excited, nervous, anxious, and ready for this new year that you are putting before us. We know that you will be with us, but our emotions, worries, and hopes can be all over the place this time of year. There will be new and the same challenges. There will be new joys we know nothing about. Guide us, help us, and lift us up to being the full humans you created us to be. We ask this knowing of your grace. Amen.


Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.


Faithfully,


Ben


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