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New Things for a New Year

January 2, 2023

Pilgrims being baptized in the Jordan River at the location where Jesus was baptized by John. (DCR March 2022)

“Now I will tell you of new things even before they begin to happen.” (Isaiah 42:9)

“See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19)

This new year begins with Isaiah excitedly declaring “Now I will tell you of new things even before they begin to happen” (Isaiah 42:9).  Each new year ushers in a spirit of optimism, of hope.  As we look back on the past year and note the blessings of the year, we also recall the pain that comes with living, and we hope that some of the sources of that pain will be alleviated.  But God tells us not to dwell on the past– look ahead to what God has in store for you in the coming weeks and months!

 As we look ahead, we have hope for the coming year— hope that our fractured country will be less polarized this year than in the last; hope for peace between Ukraine and Russia and in all nations; hope for prosperity in the land and in our family finances; hope for good health in the coming year;  hope that our suffering friends and relatives are healed and that their suffering is diminished; hope for healing of rifts in our churches, in our communities, and in our nation; hope that we and our children will use our God-given gifts productively and in accordance with God’s will.  

Our Old Testament reading excites us about the possibilities of the new year.  It’s a new start, a new beginning.  And no matter how broken or bruised or burnt-out we are, God is there to pick us up and to carry us on. He will not step on us or break our spirit (“A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” Isaiah 42: 3).  That is the hope that we see throughout next Sunday’s Scriptures.[1]

Just as God is doing a new thing in our faith communities, so he declared about 2700 years ago that that he would be doing a new thing in the Jewish faith community:  Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah –“my servant . . . my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1).  

Next Sunday’s Old Testament lesson is sometimes called the Servant Song. Through God’s servant, Jesus, all people can share in the mission of bringing “light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring the prisoners from the dungeon.” (Isaiah 42: 6-7).  This prophecy came to fruition when Jesus began his ministry at his baptism: “the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17).  Jesus, the Son of God, was the new man in town.  He revitalized and renewed the faith community of his day, and continues to work in our faith communities through his Spirit.  Bob and I visited the Jordan River site in 2020 and in 2022 where Jesus was baptized. We saw many people being baptized there—people who were beginning their life anew as a child of God. 

Paul reminded us “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” God promises to do a new thing this year in your life.  Are up for the challenge?  Will you chuck the bottomless bucket of excuses as to why you can’t (or won’t) hop on the path to renewal that God has laid out for you?  Don’t dwell on the past. Look ahead to what God has planned for your life if you will open your heart to him.  Ask him to guide you to the unique path he has forged for only you, the path that is waiting for your footsteps.  Don’t think you’re up to it?  God does.  And he will lead you to it in baby steps.  

Think God’s way is boring and restrictive?  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God’s wisdom is infinite. His creativity is unlimited.  His love for us is constant and unchanging.  His ideas and plans for us are so much bigger than our puny brains can fathom.  God’s path is always exciting, new, and innovative. Will you listen to the still small voice that appeals to your God-given gifts and talents, and break out of your comfort zone– the rut you have fallen into–and answer the challenge?  Will you say, “Here I am, Lord, use me?” Will you answer the call?  Will you let God do a new thing in your life this year?

Prayer:  Lord, I’m here today with open hands and an open heart, ready to answer your call.  Guide me to do a new thing in your name in the beginning of this new year.  Open my eyes to the doors you are opening around me.  Open my heart to follow new roads in your name.  Give me the courage to walk those roads and to pursue the new things that you are guiding me to do.  Help me in the days ahead as I face tough choices and challenging situations.  Help me to depend on you to help me and to come to you for guidance, strength, and protection. Bless me in all tasks that I undertake in your name, and help me be a blessing to others each and every day, and to bring honor to your holy name.  Amen. 

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Baptism of Our Lord are Psalm 29; Isaiah 42:1-9; Romans 6: 1-11; Matthew 3: 13-17.

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