Summary: A sermon to help us prepare for the New Year by focussing on what God is up to
The time between Christmas and New Years is a good time to reflect.
To reflect on the past year, and to contemplate the future.
Janua, which is the start of the word January means a door or a window that allows a person to look both ways.
So no wonder it was chosen to be the first month of the year.
And the start of the year is a great opportunity to do that,
we look back to where we have been and forward to where we are going.
And even if we wanted to avoid it we probably can’t at this time of the year with newspapers and television have splatterings of features that focus on the events of the past.
And in a few days time people will be making New Years resolutions about the future,
or praying for something to happen or not happen in the future.
And it was in a similar context that the prophet Isaiah speaks in the reading we read earlier.
Now it wasn’t a new year that Isaiah the prophet was speaking into, it was a new beginning.
Put yourself in the picture.
The once glorious people of Israel,
had been prisoners for some time in the foreign land of Babylon.
There were basically two problems in being forced to live in Babylon for the Israelites.
They were away from the place where they could worship God, and secondly they were encouraged to worship other gods.
Now they have returned home.
They had just been released and have returned to the area where they had been take from.
However their home looks very little like it was.
Instead of being active and bright, it is gloomy.
The people have scars from their time as slaves.
The city needs a good renovation, one of those television renovation rescue teams would be handy.
There is rubble, and cracks all over the place.
Once prosperous families are now struggling, but glad to be back home.
Ever been in that situation?
Found yourself going back to something that was once marvelous but is now not so good?
Well there is another part to the story.
And we get a perspective of this story from Isaiah.
It would have been easy for the Israelites to focus on the negative,
however the prophet Isaiah and the Israelite community focused on something else.
And I invite you to open the pew bibles to Isaiah 63:7-9 and lets read it together.
(Burnie page 782, Devonport 589, Launceston page 749).
(pause and wait for most people to find it)
7 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.
8 He said, "Surely they are my people,
sons who will not be false to me";
and so he became their Savior.
9 In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.
What did you notice?
God at work?
People highlighting that God is at work caring for them.
People highlighting that everything good was a result of God’s being active in their life..
Even when life is difficult the people highlight how many good things God has been doing.
How we remember things,
how we view the past
and how we share the events and things of the past are important.
They can in fact help us as individuals and us as a community move forward.
Despite what had happened,
when the Israelites looked at their past,
their focus was not on the negative things rather they were aware of how much God had been at work.
Amongst all their troubles they saw that many good things occurred.
They realised that this was because God had been active.
As you approach New Years Eve and reflect on the past year,
or even the past years can you see how God has been working, a good question to ask yourself and tell others about is;
‘How has God been active in my life, this community and the wider community?’
What good things has God been up to?’
This is surely something to thank God for.
God is constantly active.
God is constantly doing good among us,
Sometimes we realise God is at work and sometimes we don’t.
But God is always at work.
Now focusing on the good things God has done,
is not about ignoring the negative events of the past,
but it is about putting them in perspective and when we follow God’s ways it is about leaving them in the past.