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How Has This Year's Journey Gone?

Matthew Keranen | The Voice of Zion December 2020 --

Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. – 1 Sam. 7:12

Another year is passing. In a sense, the turn of the year is no more momentous than any other moment in time; time always ticks its course forward and on. Yet the new year, the increase by one numeral at the end of four digits feels like a change, the end of something old, the start of something new. We take stock of the year that is ending. A look back can help inspire hopes, goals and dreams for what is to come. Meanwhile, we ask ourselves, how has this year’s journey gone?

We know God has already assigned each of us a number of days, a number of years here on this earth. Each day is one day less to live, each year brings us a year closer to the end of our life. In this perspective, and especially as the number of days and years spent here accrue, these days and years feel like a gift. We can pause to thank God for all that has passed, all we have experienced, and especially for His grace, which suffices year to year. God is the source of the strength that again this year carried us to each new dawn.

The year 2020 has been exceptional. When it began, we couldn’t know what was in store for us. A global pandemic overtook us in the spring and brought many changes to how we study, work, live and even worship. Many areas of the country experienced stay-at-home orders, and our houses of worship were closed for a period of time. Instead of gathering with other children of God, we stayed in the midst of the congregation in our home to gather around God’s living Word. The big, festive gatherings at special services were changed to online broadcasts. Sunday schools and Bible classes happened via online meeting platforms or in video format. Social gatherings and travel were limited as well.

As we ponder the meaning of all this, we can also ask ourselves: how did I receive this new situation God set before me? In the face of continuing restrictions and continuing illness, we must rely on God’s guidance and pray to God for patience and acceptance. We especially ask God for the gift of healing and health to those who have fallen ill to the coronavirus or other afflictions.

This year was also an election year, one in which United States’ citizens elected a president. The year, on this score, was not without strong opinions or harsh judgments as well as discussions about race, equality and justice. We are thankful for our government, our laws and our constitution, which are gifts from God. We especially send a prayer of thanks to God for the right to exercise our religion.

We acknowledge that our leaders are set in their positions according to God’s will and they deserve our respect. We wish our next president God’s blessings and success in leading our nation. We ask God to grant every country’s leaders and all of us the peace to do the tasks God sets before us. We pray God blesses our nations’ people and awakens in each heart the desire to seek peace in daily life and peace of conscience.

Christmas is called the season of giving. God is the richest Giver, and on us He bestows His rich grace. We should pause to consider how we have used God’s grace gifts. Each of us individually must ponder, how have I borne my cross, my burdens? Have I faced what life places before me with acceptance and acknowledgement of God’s providence? How have I treated my neighbor? Have I showed compassion? Have I been a vessel of God’s love and grace?

In taking stock of this past year, in light of these questions I pose to myself, I find myself woefully lacking. I have failed on all those counts. Were it not for the grace that suffices for each of us and for every day of the year, I would have had to admit defeat in the face of all that is asked of me. I have not carried my trials with gladness, but with sighs and anger and self-pity. I can only thank God for His saving grace that, to this moment, has sustained me.

Advent and Christmas are a good preface to the new year. Advent is a time of waiting, and the message of Christmas is that we can always have a fresh start. No matter what kind of year we’ve had, we can gladly observe the birth of this innocent baby, the one who was born for us and died for us. Again we are reminded that the words of love from the manger and words of grace from the cross are ours to own. May we be given words in the new year, as God sees fit, to share of this great gift with our neighbors who seek peace.

As Christmas approaches, and an old year passes, we thank our heavenly Father for His gifts of mercy and love, for the goodness and blessings that, exceptional times notwithstanding, do suffice from day to day.

On behalf of the LLC Communications staff, I wish you a peaceful Christmas and a wonderful, blessed 2021.

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