Summary: Even in tumultuous times God’s people have every reason to offer a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for all of the gifts he pours out on us daily!
“We Will Never Forget.” Like never before that phrase has a chilling significance. Perhaps that phrase crystallizes the events of the year 2001. While it is a year that we’ve vowed never to forget, strangely it’s also the one we wish we had never experienced. So we look forward to a new year leaving the horrors of the past behind us.
As Americans we celebrate the beginning of a New Year because deep down Americans and American culture have an incurable belief in the future. America is built on the promise of a brighter future and a better tomorrow because it is envisioned to be a land of endless opportunity. So for Americans a new year is a psychological representation of all that our culture strives after: a fresh start, a new outlook, new beginnings, new hopes, and new dreams. It’s a time to leave the past behind and press forward into the excitement of what lies ahead. In our exuberance, though, we forget one very critical detail. Whether we realize it or not our past was once our future. All that we wish we could forget about the year gone by is oddly also that which was included in the promise of the future at our last New Year’s celebration.
How should we as God’s people view the passing of 2001, especially in light of all that has happened? For help we turn to the 63rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah. As we listen to the striking words of verse 7 we will be led to begin our new year with a prayer of praise to our heavenly Father for his many blessings of the past.
In order to understand the significance of this verse we need to understand something about the setting in which it was first spoken. Isaiah was actively prophesying during the tumultuous period when the 10 northern tribes of Israel were facing annihilation or deportation at the hands of Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria. While they along with their heathen countrymen were facing a grim national future, and they too along with their unbelieving neighbors were feeling the effects of social and political upheaval, the prophet Isaiah gives us a striking picture of the attitude of God’s faithful people living in Israel. With one mind and heart Isaiah portrays these believers beginning their prayer with these words: “I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us-- yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses” (Isaiah 63:7). In the midst of turmoil, God’s people are joined in giving him thanks and praise as they reflect on his past blessings!
What a remarkable reminder for us as well! Yes we too can’t help but feel the effects of 2001 together with the unbelieving segment of America. Yes, we too are feeling the effects of earthly uncertainty together with every heathen American at this point in our national history. Yet, what joy and gladness are ours because we know that we are counted among God’s faithful people, his spiritual nation of Israel!
Yet even with that piece of comfort is it easy for us to recount all the blessings our God has poured out on us this past year? Will we only remember 2001 as the year the Twin Towers came tumbling down? What will we, as God’s people, remember as we recount 2001? Blessings or disasters? Do we recognize all of the evidences of God’s loving-kindnesses and his acts of grace flowing from his compassionate love for us? Do we treasure all that God’s greatest gift to us in Jesus Christ our Savior means for us now and forever? Do we see the incredible blessings God lines up for our lives as he moves us to seek him and his kingdom first? Do we recognize that all we have is a gift from him hand: our bodies, our lives, our health, our food, our clothing, our homes, our families, the ability to work, and work to do? Do we identify his angels guarding and protecting us from all sorts of dangers and disasters every single day? Do we appreciate the incredible miracle he performed on our lives when he broke down our resistant hearts and brought us to faith in his Son? Are we aware that it’s his hand of blessing that still strengthens us and protects us in the Christian faith through the gifts of His Word and Sacraments right now? Do we count this congregation where we rejoice in the sure hope of heaven as we partake of those perfect gifts as one of his great blessings to us? Do we recognize each person associated with this congregation as a special blessing in our lives of faith as another person to grow with, another person to encourage and support us and another person for us to encourage and support? The list of blessings is just getting started! Could we possibly list all of the compassionate and gracious things that our God does for us this past year?