As all of you well know, New Year’s has come and gone. New Year’s Eve is an interesting phenomenon in that we celebrate and we kind of wave good bye to the old year and then welcome the new year with great fanfare. Our celebration lasts for the rest of the evening and early morning and then maybe carries on into New Year’s Day; one last kick at the cat as we clean out our larders of all the Christmas baking and chocolates.
After that, how do we ring the New Year?
Of course we all know the drill; we continue to recognize the New Year by making New Year’s resolutions.
I suspect that of all the resolutions which are made, the number one resolution would be to lose weight. More people join gyms and exercise facilities, or buy exercise equipment than we can imagine.
In a way, the same applies for me. I got this Fit Bit device for Christmas.
Immediately upon opening this gift, Darlene wanted me to put it on. I resisted and said that I was going to break it out of the package on New Year’s Day. I didn’t want to mess up my Christmas and miss all that baking and all those goodies. No way! It’s Christmas and I was determined to fill my face.
But on New Year’s Day, out came the Fit Bit with great fanfare and I took my first walk on the dikes with my Fit Bit. In 56 minutes I walked 2.79 miles, took 6700 steps and burned 390 calories. And so my new year begins. I did not make a New Year’s resolution, but I think I have bought into the traditional way of ringing in the New Year.
How do you ring in the New Year?
Of course, we know and often take part in the traditional ways. But how about a different consideration?
Today we consider something else. Today is another edition in our series on Stewardship, with our theme of “A Year of Grateful Living.” Today we acknowledge that this Sunday’s stewardship comes in the context of a new year. Instead of dwelling upon the traditional ways of ringing in the New Year, we want to encourage you to think of other ways in which you could ring in the new year.
In this “Year of Grateful Living,” how about living gratefully?
Before we deal with that question, some Biblical considerations.
Consider the Old Testament reading from Jeremiah.
The prophet Jeremiah reminds the people of Israel that God has generously redeemed them and brought them out of exile in Babylon. A bit more than 500 years before Jesus, Israel had been overrun by Babylon, the world super-power. Israel had strayed from God had been disobedient to God and some felt that the consequence was death, destruction and exile to Babylon. Seventy years after their captivity in Babylon, God returns them to their homeland.
The people of Israel return to their homeland and have the chance to start all over again. In effect a new year has dawned for them; a fresh start is before them.
How shall they ring in the dawning of this new era? The prophet Jeremiah suggests that they worship and praise God. The prophet says:
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
The people of Israel live gratefully, they worship and praise God and acknowledge the grace and mercy of God who redeems them despite their lack of faithfulness towards God.
The psalm writer in Psalm 147:12-20 suggests the same type of grateful living:
Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat……. Praise the LORD!
The writer of the book of Ephesians in the New Testatment, expounds upon this grateful living. The writer says:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…
…..so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.
We live for the praise of Christ’s glory, we live like Christ, emulating his grace, his compassion, his actions, his words, his deeds. We live gratefully.
In this “Year of Grateful Living,” how about living gratefully?
How do we live gratefully, how do we live this out? Granted, like the Israelites, or the early Christian church, we can live this out by worshiping and praising God. Of course there are other ways.
Of course, paying attention to your health is a way of living gratefully. Attending to our spiritual lives is a good way of living gratefully. The list of items at the bottom of this sermon were posted on Facebook yesterday and I thought it was a wonderful way of living gratefully.
Charity and service to others, are wonderful ways of living gratefully and I am sure you can come up with many more.
Actually I heard a wonderful story of gratefulness while listening to TSN Sports Radio 1040 AM. Tom Mayenknecht was speaking about the new year and the year gone by and reflected upon the death of his father last year. He talked about how difficult it was and how it left a hole in his life, but now he thinks in terms of gratefulness. Tom said that he was grateful that he was his father’s son and how important it was for him to live up to all the good things his father had done. You don’t hear that on sports radio too often.
Even in the midst of sadness and sorrow, gratefulness can peek out and we can find a way to live gratefully.
How about one more way of living this out?
The Stewardship Committee of this congregation has some thoughts in that regard. We have for you, in the Fellowship Hall, a calendar. For the month of January, we would encourage you to take the calendars home and fill in the days, with something for which you are grateful.
Don’t work ahead, fill in each day. At the end of January, bring it back to church to share and we will post on the bulletin board, or keep it on your fridge door to remind yourself.
May the grace of God, the life of Christ and things like this calendar, remind you of grateful living and inspire you to live gratefully.