Devotion for Thursday, December 31, 2020
Lectionary Readings for New Year’s Eve:
Collect: Eternal God, we commit to Your mercy and forgiveness the year now ending and commend to Your blessing and love the times yet to come. In the new year, abide among us with Your Holy Spirit that we may always trust in the saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymns of the Day: “Across the Sky the Shades of Night” – (LSB 899)
It has truly been a most different year. Many people have found themselves in situations they never thought they would. The office worker working from home. Social events and gatherings prohibited. Computer video calling – heck, the computer seeing more use than the whole previous decade combined in some cases. Being afraid to go to out shopping, or to get a coffee, …or even to church.
It has truly been a different year.
It has also been difficult as a result. We need more preparation to go to the store to pick up our groceries. More cleaning, scrubbing, masking, gloving, and preventing than we’ve ever had to do has made a simple outing a herculean task.
We are missing our friends and family. Missing getting together with them at home or in their homes. Missing getting together with them after church in the narthex for coffee or birthday luncheons. We miss just being able to shake hands or give someone a comforting hug.
This has been a difficult year too. Our social interactions outside out family have been reduced to near zero. No more gym, no more card game nights, no more regular eating out at your favourite restaurants to avoid those pesky dishes. Many of us feel cut off from friends and loved ones, especially those who live alone and only had occasional contact with family even before this all started.
It has also been difficult in that many people are trying to pit our faith against our sense of public safety and care of our neighbour. They accuse us of selfishness because we want to come to God’s house and receive His gifts in Word and Sacrament as He Himself has encouraged us to do in Scripture. This situation has left many of us feeling guilty for whichever choice we make. This year has been particularly difficult in that respect.
It has truly been a difficult year.
This year has also been very distracting – routines up ended. Regular practices like going to the mall, visiting family, attending church and Bible Study; all derailed.
I’ve gotten into a lot of fiction ready to pass the time, my wife has been working her way through Netflix, and many of the people I have talked to over the year have had similar experiences. TV shows that we always meant to watch have been consumed. Crocheting projects that had been put on hold are now completed. Things that we said – ‘when I have time I’ll do it,’ have been done…in some cases. But over all, we have been distracted from our day-to-day routines and sleep cycles enough that this year will never been forgotten by anyone over the age of 9 who lived through it.
It has truly been a distracting year.
Many of us just want to drop to our knees and thank God that it’s over…but it’s really not. Even though the year is coming to an end, the situation remains largely the same. We are still in this quarantine, grey zone, situation, and we look at the year ahead and wonder what we should do; how we should more forward; and what it should all look like when we do.
Our Gospel lesson for today helps us in this by giving us some much-needed direction in this different, difficult, and distracting time.
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.” (Luke 12:35-36)
It basically tells us that no matter what situation we find ourselves in in life, to stay focused on Christ and to be ready for His return. That is, to keep doing things that encourages our faith, strengthens it, and better equips us to witness in the world around us.
But we’re in quarantine!
Be ready. Take that extra time to read His Word, maybe even slot in an extra devotion or two a week. Get to know His Word better so that when it comes up in conversation, your better equipped to explain it and encourage others with it.
But I have to stay home, and I have no real social contact with others outside of my immediate bubble!
Be ready. Work on your own understanding, and then, as you do have contact with others, either through video computer calls, phone calls, or physically distanced social time, you can share what you’ve learned with others, be that light in the darkness that the passage is reminding us to be.
But I have no set schedule, and it’s easy to get distracted by my favourite pass times, shows and games.
Be ready. Be ready by being prepared – I said it before, I’ll say it again: be in the Word, be in His will. Pray regularly, set alarms on your fancy phone to spend time in devotions, turn off the TV every now and then pick up the Bible. Turn on a good podcast or video like you can find at the Lutheran Hour Ministries websites, or any of the other links we send to you from the church every week. Why? Why should we spend time on this? Why should we waste our ‘precious’ free time on something we don’t find entertaining and mind numbing?
“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40)
Because today isn’t the only thing you’re living for! Tomorrow will be even better!
But most importantly know this: you’re not going to do it perfectly. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, but know that you will fail, and that for those times that we do fail, where we make the wrong decisions (even for the best of intentions), and when we put our own wants and desires before God’s, that we have the forgiveness that Jesus won for us on that cross at Calvary. There He redeemed you, bought you back from this sinful fallen existence, and through the faith He planted in you by the Holy Spirit, made you a new creation. Yes, you are a sinner, but you are also a saint, and you should always feel that tension and realise that, “Yes, I did mess up today…or last year. Thanks be to God I have His blessed gift of forgiveness through His Son, my Saviour Jesus Christ. This will allow me to get up tomorrow, or next year, and try again with His blessing.”
We give thanks in this coming year, just as we did during this previous different, difficult, and distracting one, that we have a loving and compassionate God who loves us despite our sin, and promised to walk with us through all our troubles, even through the valley of the shadow of death; even through this past year of 2020; even in this this next year and all the ones to follow.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Amen.