Meditations for NYE 2019
New Year’s Eve - December 31, 2018
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Meditations at the Turning of the Year
Spring (Luke 4:16-21)
Spring dawns. You begin to see what nature has in store for the months ahead. Plants are blooming. Creatures which had been dormant over the winter become active. Spring is a time of renewal. It’s also a time of fulfillment: the waiting comes to an end as new life springs up in the world around us. The promise that sees us through the winter is being realized.
In Luke’s account of Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in Nazareth, the town where he’d grown up, we begin to see what God has in store for His Son’s ministry. Through the words of the prophet Isaiah, Jesus announces the nature of his mission. God’s long-awaited Messiah is now delivering the renewal for which Israel had been waiting. He comes to bring the good news, freedom, and restored sight that this broken world has been missing. The promise of hope for new life – life with God – is finally being realized.
What are you waiting for in the year ahead? Which promises do you hope to see fulfilled? Right now, you can’t see if your expectations in this broken world are going to be met. But what can you see? That God has delivered what you and I most need, in Christ. He is the fulfillment of God’s promise, the gift that exceeds all expectations.
In Jesus, every year is the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus has come to proclaim good news to you. He was sent to proclaim liberty to you, to restore your sight which had been blinded by sin, to set you free from its oppression. In Jesus, this coming year will be a year of renewal. It will be a year in which God continues to draw you closer to Himself through the working of His Word, to build you up in new life. That’s His ongoing promise to His people. And God delivers on His promises.
Summer (Luke 12:27-31)
What’s the one thing that you enjoy most about summer? The one thing that epitomizes your ideal summer? You’ve got options: vacations, swimming pools, cookouts, fireworks, ice cream trucks – summer has them all. But maybe you’re too busy to be able to really enjoy the summer. Your schedule is too crowded. You’re thinking about everything you need to get done. And you see that you’ve got less money in the bank than you’d like. You get more and more focused on getting through the daily grind as day after day flies by. Before long, you notice that the season’s ending. You missed out.
People miss out on a lot – and sometimes it’s on something big. It’s not that anything specific kept them from getting in on the experience; it’s that they’d been focusing on the wrong things. If you’ve ever gone over to someone’s house after Christmas – after getting that present that you’d been hoping to get for months! – and see what they got and want that instead of what you have, you’ve been there, too. When you get caught up in an anxious, short-sighted focus on your own wants, you can easily lose sight of the care and provision that God is giving all around you.
Jesus tells anyone who would follow him to focus on God’s gifts. Look at His work in your life and in the lives of the people you meet. In each season, God provides for the flowers in the field and the nations of the world alike. He provides for you, too – take a look through the list in Martin Luther’s explanation of the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. But above all that, God also offers yet another blessing. It’s one that we often overlook: contentment.
Following Jesus by God’s grace, you and I can know contentment by enjoying God’s care and provision in the here-and-now. That’s part of the great gift of the life you have in Christ. Living with God through our Savior, we get to experience God’s reigning in us, among us, and through us. You are a part of God’s kingdom, in which He is continually connecting more and more souls with His grace, in every season of the year.
Autumn (Ephesians 1:3-10)
What do you think is the perfect season? I know people who love autumn with its changing leaves, pleasant weather, and seasonal celebrations. Autumn around here hits a sweet spot for experiencing the world around us. As we move into the changing of the year, you might be looking for the right time and the perfect season in your life. Will the year ahead be the one that hits the sweet spot and brings everything together for you? Here’s some good news: it doesn’t have to be. That time has already come!
In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that God sent His Son in the fullness of time – the proper time, the perfect season – to bring us what we needed most. As autumn goes along, we see nature moving from prosperity to paucity. Things don’t work as well as they once did. The weather gets colder. The days grow shorter. Under the burden of sin, our broken lives are much the same. Jesus came to buy us back from sin and despair and to bring us back to God.
We are united in Christ’s cross, heaven and earth brought back into restored relationship. Because of the Savior who was sent into our world in the perfect season, we are reconnected with our Creator. God makes you and me to be His children, adopted through Jesus’ work. You are chosen, freed from the burden of having to make your own way to God. He has come to you.
You and I can enter the year ahead holy and blameless before our heavenly Father, confident in His plan and assured of His glorious grace. Jesus came to us in the perfect season.
Winter: (Galatians 4:4-7)
Winter is a season of endings. We’ve lost the blooms of spring, the warmth of summer, the colors and flavors of autumn. Nights are longer. Sometimes, it’s just hard to get out of the bed in the morning.
Endings come into the lives of God’s people, too. Youth and health fade. Sources of employment and income run dry. Friends move away. Loved ones die. In winter, you can be left feeling pretty alone.
But winter isn’t just about endings. Tonight, the old year ends; but the new year starts. The dawn of the year ahead takes place in the same season as passing of the present. Winter is equally a season of new beginnings – Christmas included!
Christmas isn’t limited to a one-day celebration on December 25. It’s a season. In these twelve days of Christmas, we remember and rejoice that God has provided for us in the fullness of time. He has sent His Son so that you and I could have a new beginning as His children. That’s a beginning doesn’t end!
Because of Jesus, you have life that time cannot take away. Even as the world passes away around you, even as you know hurt and loss, you still have a Father who loves you enough to pay the full price to buy you back into freedom. He has sent His Spirit to be with you, and He will not leave you to be alone.
Looking ahead into the new year, remember that winter is a season of new beginnings. You don’t have to make any resolutions or plan any special celebrations to mark this occasion. God has taken care of all of the details. He’s invited you, His child, to come and know the peace and the joy that is yours in Jesus.
In each new day, in each new year, may you experience – and celebrate – the new beginning that the Lord has prepared for you.