New Year’s Celebration: Sunday January 12, 2020
Sermon: New Year’s Guidance
I’ve been reading devotionals at the start of this year, a good way to glean insight and wisdom to begin the year, and since my message is entitled “New Year’s Guidance,” I’d like to share some stories, thoughts and comments found in these devotionals.
Recently, a young mother describes sitting in her church worship service with her 2 yr. old son, who is playing with a toy in the pew to keep him occupied. At prayer time, the congregation is asked to hold hands with one another, which everyone does, and the young mother extends her hand to her young son. He takes it for a few short seconds, but then goes back to playing with his toy – until it is broken! It is a construction vehicle like Lego and easily fixable, which the kind mother does, and then she extends her hand again to hold her son’s hand – which he does for a little longer, but then goes back to playing with his toy.
And the mother in the devotional says this: “I started thinking how God always keeps a hand out waiting for us, even when we’re happily going on with our life ignoring God or not putting God first. Despite this,” says the Mom, “when we go to God with our life that has broken into pieces, God puts us back together. We then have a choice to thank God and take hold of our Creator’s hand, or go back to ignoring God. Either way, God waits for us. Praise be to God for God’s ever-beckoning hand and unconditional love,” finishes the story.
And doesn’t this speak the truth? We can all see ourselves in this little boy. How easily we get distracted, with our amusements and what seems important to us – it may not be crucially important – but we let these things interfere with our time with God. This message seemed so relevant as we begin our new year of 2020. Can we build into each day a time with God? To read our Bibles, our devotionals, and pray, and meditate, and seek God’s will for us? God is always there to put us back together – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, psychologically – this is what is crucially important. We need to hold God’s hand every day.
Philippians 4: 6–7 tells us this: “Do not worry or be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” God is listening and God knows our concerns. For each of us. We are each unique in that our concerns, or challenges, or life-events are personally our own – they belong to nobody else. They are unique to us. God knows. God knows us. Life is going to present its ups and downs – we know this. And so often in our scriptures, God is found in the storm. Remember the gale that blows up on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus and the disciples are in a boat caught in the storm. The disciples are terrified that they are going to drown. Where is Jesus? Asleep in the hull. A caption I saw with this drawing said: “Even God takes naps.” Which made me laugh, but what a poignant message! God is with us all the time, in all events, even when it seems God isn’t attentive or caring.
In another devotional talking about this bible story, the writer says: “I thought of Jesus as he commanded the pounding rain, fierce waves, and raging wind to be still. No matter how ferocious the storm, God who is beautiful is in the midst of it. God is ever near to us – our shelter, our stronghold, and our beautiful peace.” And these comments made me stop and think of God as beautiful – God’s beauty – with us in the storm. We readily think of God’s peace and love and goodness and benevolence with us. We know God would never direct any malice or ill-will against us – that isn’t God. God is filled with love towards us. God IS love. And to think of God’s beauty operating in the midst of things for us even when things are not beautiful – this was a new thought for me. Beautiful God found in the storm with us. Beautiful God encompassing all God’s goodness. We are held in God’s beauty.
Immanuel – God with us – came in Jesus to save us from peril. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” John 3: 16. As one devotional expressed it: “We trust God with our salvation and our eternity. How often do I worry that God is not going to handle the situation or take care of the problem? How often do I not even take it to the Lord, wanting to address the problem on my own? God can handle all situations – large and small. If I trust God to take care of my eternal life, how can I possibly not trust God to take care of all the smaller things in my life, too?”
I have one other story to share, written by a young girl from Mexico who had her sights on a college education in the States. She says: “When I graduated from high school, I did not know what to do. I had been looking for a college athletic scholarship in the United States. But I had difficulties with the entrance exams that I needed to take. Many people told me they thought I couldn’t pass the exams. Most of my classmates knew what college they would attend, but I didn’t. Everyone asked me what I was going to do, and when I told them that I was going to the U.S., they still told me that I couldn’t do it. Time passed, and I still did not have a college to attend. My parents were worried, and my dad thought that I would never make it. He was about to send me to a university in Mexico, but I refused. Eventually I stopped believing in myself, so I started talking to God for guidance through the process. I was reminded of Philippians 4:6 which says, ‘Do not worry about anything.’ In the fall, I received an email telling me that I was accepted to an American college. I know that I will never be alone because God is with me to guide me to what is best for my life.”
And that last sentence has become a mantra for me: I know that I will never be alone because God is with me to guide me to what is best for my life. As we start this new year 2020, I encourage you to get a daily devotional – they are full of wonderful stories and testimonies from Christians around the world. And hold God’s hand every day. Read your bibles, pray, meditate, and seek God’s guidance and will for you. Amen.
Please read our United Church’s Creed, reminding us that we are not alone.
The United Church Creed
We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.