The old year has passed... the new year is upon us.
In many ways, it’s a fresh start… a clean slate… a new – if but symbolic – beginning.
Which makes the start of a new year a good time to pause, and take stock of where we’ve been...
Of course, 2020 was a pretty challenging year for most of us. We’ve lost people we’ve known and loved. We were forced into isolation (at least for a while). We couldn’t even worship in God’s house back during the Easter Season. Some people lost jobs (and are still unemployed). Some haven’t been able to visit with their loved ones in nursing homes (or haven’t seen their grandchildren) for nearly 10 months now. Precious... valuable time... lost.
Of course, this now passed year (to which most of us probably said “good riddance”) was also filled with good things, too. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. For those who’ve been able... we’ve been back for “in-person” worship since the Sunday after Mother’s Day… and by the grace of God we were able to gather for our Kirkin’-of-the-Tartans! We’ve even had one church fellowship gathering! There has been a renewed sense of what’s truly needed, and what’s actually important in life. Some of us saw our “friend list” shortened as a result. Less drama. Less walking on eggshells. Less people pretending that we mattered.
I also heard on the radio this week where animal shelter adoptions are up! I’ve watched firsthand as people have reached-out beyond themselves, and their own families in love and concern for the needy.
Here at the church, we didn’t miss a single opportunity to share God’s Word thanks to social media... and we’ve celebrated and welcomed four new ACTIVE members during a pandemic.
God led us all - kicking and screaming at times - while he effectively used a difficult year to remind us... that the media is not in control... the government is not in control... doctors and lawyers and preachers are not in control. The usual seats of power and privilege and knowledge and comfort are not in control. HE is still in control... and THANKS be to GOD... HE is ALWAYS Good.
Again, the beginning of a new year is a good time to take stock in where we’ve been... to recall God’s blessings... and to resolve to move forward into the days ahead... with confidence, because God is with us.
In essence... that’s what Joshua was saying in our lesson for today. He was reminding God’s people of all that God had done... everything God had seen them through...
He took them all the way back to Abraham, reminding them of how God blessed Abraham and created Israel. Calling the people to remember how God led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land.
Finally, he challenged them. “Decide right now who you will serve. Will you serve the gods of the peoples? Or will you serve the one true God?” Then he added, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Of course, Joshua’s calling is just as valid… just as important… for us today as it was in OT times.
The truth is… despite the challenges of life in this age of COVID… God has been so good to us… He has blessed us.
God knew the plight and condition of the human race… and when the time was right, God sent his Son.
TODAY being the 9th Day of Christmas... we’re continuing to celebrate the fact that God became one of us, Emmanuel, the Word made flesh. Born as a homeless child to know firsthand our trials and to make God real in a tangible, relatable, wonderful way. An expression of God’s goodness… an expression of God’s grace.
Jesus taught and healed. He called fishermen and tax collectors. He ate with sinners. He fed the multitudes and raised the dead. He told Nicodemus that he must be born again and he offered living water to a thirsty woman at the well. Then he sat down with his disciples and took bread and broke it and said "This is my body" and wine and said "This is my blood." An expression of God’s goodness… an expression of God’s grace.
Then he died for our sins. Even as he hung on the Cross he prayed, "Father, forgive them." He told the thief "You will be with me today in Paradise." Then he died. But on the third day he arose and appeared to his disciples in the breaking of the bread - and He continues to be with us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. An expression of God’s goodness… an expression of God’s grace.
God has been good to us! How do we respond to that goodness, that grace?
We have a choice to make. Will you serve the gods of this world: the gods of wealth and power and popularity and consumption and materialism and me-ism? Or will you serve the God who came in the flesh to die for your sins.
As we begin this new - and welcomed - year together... let’s rededicate ourselves to God, and to walking in the light of Christ! Let’s choose this day whom we will serve; with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! (Say it with me!)