New Years is one of my favorite seasons of the year. The joy of the Christmas season and the warmth of family feasts always lift my spirit. No matter how challenging the year has been, I typically enter the New Year rejuvenated. It’s a natural time to redefine my personal vision. In keeping with this rhythm, I often reflect on the milestones and accomplishments of the past year. The accomplishments I focus on are personal, organizational, and national.
Three years ago, I was blessed to spend Christmas in South Africa. My family and I will never forget the feeling of waking up to a bright sunrise near the seashore. The region was quiet, remote, and peaceful. Despite the exotic surroundings, the highlight of the trip was the time we spent together as a family. At the end of that trip, we traveled back to the U.S. to complete our year-end tradition of sending out the old year in a powerful church service.
We were especially thankful for the way things had unfolded in 2004. As 2005 opened, I felt clear and focused. In addition to setting new personal and professional goals, my family and I made a decision to make a difference in our nation by starting the High Impact Leadership Coalition (HILC). We decided to lift our voices to attempt to change the direction of our nation by educating, equipping, and inspiring Christian clergy and laymen to engage in the political process and take action on strategic cultural issues. Our primary focus was to get minority leaders (blacks and Hispanics) to join the broader Christian community in standing for biblical values and positive cultural change in our nation.
Little did I know that in just a few months we would be launched into an amazing flurry of productive activity. HILC became an overnight success and attracted the attention of many conservative, minority leaders. At the same time I would also face a diagnosis of advanced cancer before the year was up. Later that fall I engaged in a literal fight for my life. During that special Christmas and New Years in 2004, I had no idea how important the year ahead would be. Fortunately, the strength that I received fortified me for the turbulent season ahead.
This season could be preparing us for the most important year of our lives. National change is in the air. Personal change is in the air. Some have concerns about the economy. Many will lose their homes, their property, their bank accounts, and their dreams.
So how do we prepare ourselves for the unexpected? Or how do we make the most out of this unique season of time? Before I recommend a new approach to the New Year, let me tell you what I think does not work.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.