Today is Saturday, the 31st of December, 2022, in the first week of Christmas. It is the seventh day of Christmas, and it is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2022.
May the peace of Christ be with you always!
We have some casual plans for this afternoon/evening. The family people who were supposed to come Christmas Eve will be showing up around 4:00 PM today. We plan to order out, rather than having everyone cook a lot of stuff. I believe we’re having Italian food. Last big meal for us, as at least three of us plan to get back on the proverbial “wagon” tomorrow. I might watch some college football today. TCU plays Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. Winner will take on the winner of the Peach Bowl, either Ohio State or Georgia, for the “national championship.”
As I finish today’s devotional, I am finishing four more books for the year. I’ll be starting new ones tomorrow.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. (Psalms 119:73 ESV)
That may very well become my verse for 2023. What a great prayer.
Lord our God, thank you for letting your light shine every day of every year. Thank you that we may always lift our eyes to you, whose right hand will bring true order to everything, even in difficult times. Give our hearts the strength to be faithful in this age, the strength to glorify you. For you remain, no matter what happens on earth. You are our God. You have sent us the Savior and we can draw close to you. Your promise to us stands firm, the promise that your day with its truth and justice shall come, to the honor of your name. May many people turn their hearts to you; may they worship you and call to you for help, to the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end. Psalm 102:25–27, NIV
Today I am grateful:
- for the unchangeable nature of God; everything around us will perish, but He remains, and His “years will never end”
- that our hearts have the strength to be faithful in this age
- that, because of our Savior, we can draw close to the Father
- for endings and new beginnings
- for the potential of seeing “extraordinary things” in our lives (Luke 5)
When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—”I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
(Luke 5:22-26 ESV)
Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." (Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV)
This is too much, too wonderful— I can't take it all in! (Psalms 139:6 MSG)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalms 16:11 NIV)
It’s the last day of a year. It’s a day that is famously viewed as an ending, giving way to a new beginning.
So there is some good advice, here, for looking forward. “Be strong and courageous,” Moses said to Israel, at the end of his life, as he handed off leadership to Joshua. He then said the same words directly to Joshua. “Do not be afraid or terrified.” This is good advice for us as we look forward to another year.
I don’t have a lot of confidence that 2023 is going to be any different than 2022, as far as the world goes. There is so much fear in the world, right now, and I don’t see it going away, especially in the USA, because there are people who are driving the fear. Most of, if not all of, the fear is driven by misinformation. “Fake news,” if you will, from both sides (which is, of course, assuming that there are only two sides).
For those of us who choose to put our faith in God, rather than men, all of this is meaningless. There are more important things to be concerned with than who the next President is going to be or whether an ex-President is going to be indicted for his crimes. In fact, there are more important things to be concerned with than the future of this country. I realize that this comes as a shock to some people.
“Be strong and courageous.” In a way, this is very similar to the command most often repeated in Scripture, “Fear not.” This, I believe, is the Word from God for us as we look toward another year of political chaos and health crises.
If we keep our eyes on our Creator, and on the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), we truly can exclaim, along with the psalmist, “This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in!” Or, to put it another way, “Wow!”
It would also do us well to consider some of the closing words of the book of Isaiah: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” There is a great need for more humility in our land, and more people who tremble at the Word of God. And I’m not talking about human interpretations of the Bible, either.
Finally, I find it fitting that the last Scripture I read, this morning, happened to be one of my favorite verses in Psalms. Psalm 16:11.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:11 ESV)
As we look toward another year, let us remember this. Let us remember to have courage, to “fear not,” and let us remember that it is God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, our Father in heaven, who makes known to us the path of life. Let us remember that, in His presence, there is fullness of joy, and that, at His right hand, there are pleasures forevermore.
When your joy is threatened, when you are not experiencing “pleasure,” stop. Just stop. Quiet yourself, quiet your soul and spirit. Meditate on His Word, and remember whose you are. Get back into an awareness of His presence, and back on the true path of life.
Father, in some ways, I am glad 2022 is coming to an end. Thank you for endings that lead to new beginnings. On another level, of course, I am also aware that today is just another day, as is tomorrow. It is only our mindset that makes these days “special.” The reality is that every day is, in itself, a “new beginning,” and we don’t have to wait until December 31 of next year to plan to do things better.
Nevertheless, as we embark on whatever adventures 2023 will bring our way, help us to focus on You; help us to have faith in You; help us to take our eyes off of corrupt politicians (most of them, regardless of labels), off of the health crises around us (but still remaining cautious and responsible), and keep them on You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I look forward to beginning 2023 in worship with Living Word Lutheran Church, in the morning. I pray that there are things that I will do better in 2023. I pray that my prayers will be better, more effective, stronger, and more faithful. This requires me, of course, to be more connected with You, so let me do that, Lord. Help me to live like I believe.
I do believe! Help my unbelief! And help my occasional apathy!
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
Grace and peace, friends.