Choose Wisely-Roddy Hamilton
Words for the beginning of New Year worship
the words you will use
this new year time
Choose wisely the words
you wish to use to fill this sacred space
in the first few hours of the year
Will it be a word of justice
or one of compassion
a word that holds forgiveness
or one that invests in peace?
For this word
shapes the beginning
and it is in the beginnings
hope is begun
Whether that hope lasts
is ours to decide in later days
but whether it has hope at all
is ours to decide now
Choose wisely the word
you speak in these fresh hours
for The Word has chosen now
to speak of us
Hope, on this first day of the New Year we hear God’s words for us from Isaiah, the Psalmist, Paul, and Luke, words of hope for us.
The writer of Third Isaiah is speaking of the delight he has because of what God has done and is going to do for his nation, a nation that has been literally destroyed and is now just beginning to be rebuilt. It hasn’t happened yet, in fact the task looks impossible, but his hope, his faith, is that God will be true to his promise and will again make Jerusalem a city that nations will look up to as an example of how much God loves his people.
The psalmist, Paul, and Luke write about all that God has done. They remind us that God has indeed kept his word. This spinning piece of space debris is perfect, ideally created, for us. It’s just the right environment for us. When God uttered the word it became everything it was intended to be, a home for all God’s children. The psalmist believes that every piece of creation gives, or should give, praise to the Creator. And some days can’t you just feel it? Haven’t you felt it, the air surrounding you just filled with joy and exuberance? Maybe that’s happened this past week.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, speaks of a different hope. The hope of acceptance, the hope of being received into a family, of being loved by a family, the hope of being forgiven, of having the slate wiped clean of all offenses. He speaks of the hope of not having to jump through hoops to be one of God’s children.
Some of us might not be able to understand what that’s like. Can you imagine never experiencing the unconditional love of a parent? Some of us can, and then to one day to wake up and realize that everything’s changed…we find that we are loved. We really can call on God. We can whisper “Papa” and he hears us. He stretches his hand out and we take a hold of his finger and we know, no matter what, we are loved.
We’ve hoped. We’ve dreamed. We’ve prayed for this moment and when it comes we can hardly believe it. Some one has taken all our burdens, all of our anxieties, and we’re free. We’re no longer on the outside looking in but we’re inside, we can’t believe it’s happened to us, and we really are part of the family. And we’re filled with such joy that we think our hearts are going to burst.
Luke tells us the story of when Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus to the temple to be given as a holy offering to God. Can you imagine how these two must have felt coming into that space, two young parents who have been spoken to by angels and have been given the responsibility of raising the Messiah? The prophet Isaiah thought the rebuilding of the Temple was huge, what about raising and caring for God’s Son? I imagine their hope was that they didn’t muck this up. God wouldn’t let that happen but still…
But then to have two people, first Simeon and then Anna, take the baby and give him their blessings and prophecy about his life. They both probably wondered what God was doing. How could they possibly do everything right? But they had hope and faith that God would keep his promises to them.
As we begin this New Year, we have hope. The hopes I have are revealed in this poem by Roddy Hamilton…
Still (a new year blessing)
May God still shape this community as a place of life
that lives that life to the full
May The Word still move us towards justice
and let that justice disturb our souls
May our names still be known
and loved by all who speak them
May faith still deny what we consider answers
and set us free instead to explore the questions
May the Spirit still enable us to believe into tomorrow
by trusting what she does in today
And may God still surround us and embrace us
with grace, imagination and a love that will not let us go
Friends, I pray that these are your hopes and that together with God we can see them come to be. Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.