Daily Encouragement - January 1
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
— Psalm 50:1-12
Our habit of marking January 1st as the start of a New Year is really rather arbitrary. Sure, it is a week after the celebration of Christmas and in that sense reasonable to mark a new start, but still, there is nothing really new about this time of the year. Our Jewish brothers and sisters mark the fall as a new year, which makes a certain amount of sense. After the summer celebrations, to draw a line and start anew seems reasonable. The kids are going back to school, there is a chill in the air. It feels about right. The Chinese mark there year usually near the beginning of Spring. That too makes some sense. Buds on the tree and all. We use January in part because of the ancient Romans. Our practice dating back to Caesar and the god Janus, the god of beginnings.
I have to say, I love a new calendar, it’s pages fresh and clean. There is something exciting about beginnings. Wherever we mark that line in time, we cross into something new with all its possibilities, all its adventures yet to be. There is something good about pausing to think about time and its passage. To “number our days” as the Psalmist renders it. Something wise about counting, giving thanks, dreaming.
May this New Year begun be for us all a time to consider the gifts of God, to commit ourselves to the path of grace, and to find the blessings of each day.
O God, Our Help in Ages Past v. 4&5
A thousand ages, in thy sight,
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night,
before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
bears all who breathe away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream dies
at the opening day.
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
— John Wesley Covenant Prayer
Pastor Tom Greener