WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Transforming the New Year

By Tim Atkins

"In our perfect ways
In the ways we are beautiful,
In the ways we are human—
Happy New Year’s. Let’s make it ours."

As a religious humanist, I’ve never quite found a winter holiday that speaks to me on a deep, spiritual level—that is, until I started transforming New Year’s into my own, personal holiday and created a bunch of traditions. For example, every year I give my apartment (and now house) a deep cleaning, because I don’t want to bring last year’s trash (either literal or metaphorical) into the new year. Another tradition that I started was choosing a single word to be my theme for the upcoming year. Last year, I was fortunate enough to introduce many of you to this practice, and we heard back from many of you about the words you were choosing for the year. (My word for 2020: authenticity.)

"2021" is written in the snow on a gravel surface outdoors.

Part of my New Year’s tradition is also reflecting on the past year. And really, how much do any of us want to look back and reflect on the year that was 2020? It was a rough year for just about all of us. But when reflecting on the past year, I do it through the lens of my word of the year: Was I being authentically me? There were times during 2020, when faced with a tough decision, that I relied on asking myself, “Which choice is more authentically me?” Years down the road, when I reflect back on 2020, sure I’ll remember the masks, but I’ll also remember it through the lens of my word for that year.

But enough of the year that was 2020. I know I’m ready to move on and I bet you are too. So what’s my word for 2021? Roots. I made a major move this year, to Oklahoma City, and assuming all goes well, just days into the new year I will officially close on a house and become a first-time home owner.

It’s time for me to set down roots in my new neighborhood and my new town. But I can take roots further: I want to explore my own family’s roots more, in order to better fully understand my own cultural story. I want to explore the roots of my beliefs more, and examine the sources that drive my actions. (Also, I want to garden. Now I’ve finally got the space to do it!)

What’s your word for 2021? What’s the one word you hope will define your upcoming year?


Oh source of creative inspiration, guide me and my thoughts. Help me see all that I may be, to help me be authentically me, on this journey of self-exploration. May our upcoming year be better than the last. May our upcoming year be grounded in peace, rooted in hope, and guided by love.