When I visited West Africa several years ago, it was pointed out to me by the man guiding me that Christmas was not much observed by Africans (at least in comparison to Americans and Europeans). "Oh, we sing some of the songs, but it is not much of a celebration here. Instead, we mostly focus on celebrating the new year."
I thought that interesting. He said he did not really know why, but I suspect that it's simply because the fervor that we know and "love" is in part kept intense by the unequaled amount of media attention given it (from books like "A Christmas Carol" which helped to dramatically shape subsequent cultural perspective in the west on Christmas to the enormous amount of marketing that regularly takes place to motivate the holiday shopper).
But since I am not a sociologist, I'll refrain from overanalyzing things and try to not offer explanations for such differences and instead reflect for a moment on the wonder of closing out one year and entering another.
Suffice it to say that there is a level of respect due to the ending of one year and the beginning of another. Not because there is anything magical or mystical associated with the calendar we use, but simply because the ending of one thing and the beginning of another is always an opportunity to take stock of our lives, our direction, our expectation and our relationship with God.
Are you happy with life? If you say "yes", then I hope it is because you are growing in Christ, not because you have everything in this life that you've ever wanted. We can be content with our circumstances for all the wrong reasons, and whatever our reasons are, they are definitely the wrong reasons if they obstruct the love and the will of our God in our lives.
What does 2011 hold for you? Who can say? Only God sees what's ahead in the road of your life. But you can rest in knowing that if you will "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that you will have all that you need" (from Matthew 6:33). Will there be pain and loss? Possibly. But keep in mind that "God works in all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (from Romans 8:28).
And though difficult situations may indeed be in the road ahead, remember that there are riches of blessings in store for you. Some may be material (when so many suffer from want right now). Some may be physical (when so many struggle with sickness). Some may be relational (when true friends are rare treasures to be found). And some are definitely going to be spiritual (you are, after all, a child of God if you have repented of sin and trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord).
"In all… things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39 NIV).
Celebrate this New Year with thankfulness for God's faithfulness in 2010. Look forward to what He has in store for you as you trust and obey Him. Give Him your heart, your life, your devotion as you enter this 2011.