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bike“Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob. Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet of the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day. For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt”
Psalm 81:1-5

Happy New Year!

Here is surely a day to mark on our calendars, a day to truly celebrate and ponder. The passing of the years leads me to take each year more seriously. I take to heart Ben Franklin’s words: “Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of”.

As I read the Bible I see that God does intend for us to observe and celebrate the passing of time, the months and years. In fact, the first page of the Bible tells us that God placed the moon and sun right above us to be our celestial calendar “for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14).

God intends the passing of each season, day, and year, be an occasion for prayerful reflection on the time that has passed, and a prayerful looking to the future with trust and confidence.

The rabbi and scholar Abraham Heschel has helped me, a post-modern Westerner, to think more Biblically about the significance of time and its passing. Heschel writes:

Unlike the space-minded man to whom time is unvaried, iterative, homogeneous, to whom all hours are alike, quality-less, empty shells, the Bible senses the diversified character of time. There are not two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious (The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man).

I have taken today’s text from Psalm 81, which was for ancient Israel a psalm for the New Year. The ancients not only began each month with celebration, but each year with shouts of joy, the sound of the tambourine, lyre, harp, and trumpet, singing “aloud to God our strength”. Each new month and new year were times to recall God’s faithfulness in the past and to look to the new with joy and optimism.

I try to follow ancient Israel’s example and make time in these days before the New Year to celebrate God’s goodness in the old year, and then ready myself to step boldly into the new.

But what about New Year’s resolutions? Well, for me, rather than making resolutions that go in one year and out the other, I like to take these days to connect with my deepest joy. I believe that connecting with our deepest joy can help us discern how God might be “calling” us (i.e. our “vocation”) in the coming year.

I first got this idea of connecting with my deepest joy from Frederick Buechner who says that, “Your calling is where your deep joy and the world’s great need intersect”.

So on this eve of another year, I want to ask you:

  • What is your deepest joy?
  • What is the world’s deepest need?

After giving some thought to these two important questions, you might find it helpful and encouraging to consider these:

  • I have always wanted to try…
  • The world needs more of…
  • My hero/heroine is…
  • Movies, songs, books, art, that inspire me are…
  • If this year were my last I would…

Take some time to ponder these in God’s presence and talk with Him about the New Year. Then, along with the firecrackers, noise makers and horns, “Shout for joy…sing aloud to God our strength”.

Yes, shout for joy!

photo by dickdavid 

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