Der Vasken's Sermon on December 31, 2017

Jan 3, 2018

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We've reached that time of year, again, where we make peace with our past and look to the future with some hope and maybe even some trepidation.  January is a unique time of year.  January is the only time of year where we look back upon the last twelve months to see how well we did or to see how we could have done better.  But January is also the one time of year where we look ahead with hopeful hearts.  It's the door into a new year.

The name "January" comes from the Roman god "Janus."  Janus, in the Roman religion, was the god of beginnings and gateways and doorways and transitions and passages of time.  He was always depicted with two faces--one looking to the past and the other looking to the future.  And so, over time, the first month of the year was named after the Roman god Janus...hence January.  

It's the time of year when many people tend to look back at the year that just ended and look forward to the New Year ahead of us.  How did we spend the one year of our life that will pass tonight at midnight?  

  • Did we use it to fulfill our resolutions from last January?
  • Could we have done a better job in using our time and talents?
  • Did we balance the demands of life?
  • What did we accomplish last year and what do we want to accomplish in this New Year?

Yesterday was an unusual day for me.  In the morning I eulogized a sweet lady at her funeral and celebrated a wedding just an hour later.  And throughout the day, I thought about all that happened here in our church--not just yesterday but during the past twelve months here at Holy Trinity.  We baptized a lot of children this past year within these walls.  Over the same twelve months we said goodbye to many--too many beautiful people.  Many long-time parishioners were laid to rest.  Under the sign of the Holy Cross, we blessed and baptized and buried our loved ones.

On Saturday, in between the funeral and the wedding, I found a moment to sit and think for a short bit of time, and I thought about the many people involved with these sacraments and services--the funerals, the baptisms and the weddings of 2017.  I brought to mind their faces. 

  • I saw the joyous face of a young mother and father bringing their child to church to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.
  • I saw the mournful eyes of adult children attending their parents' funerals.
  • And I saw the joyous tears of parents as they watched their children stand before the Holy Altar and receive the Sacrament of Marriage.

 Different faces, different expressions and different times of their lives but all were at the same church.  As these thoughts ran through my mind, I thought of the New Year before us.  January is here.  December was finishing.  Do I look backwards or do I look forward?  When I look backward, what is it that I hope to see?  When I turn my attention forward, are my hopes any different?  In light of the past twelve months, the answer for me was obvious and it is what I want to share on this last Sunday before the New Year.

No matter how long or short we live, regardless if our face is easily recognized or goes unnoticed in a crowd, life is precious and it races by all too quickly, and we all need to stay connected with the One Who gives our lives meaning.  In this New Year, it could be exceedingly appropriate for each of us to create time alone every day with God to connect every day with God.  That is the one thing we can all do in this New Year that will make a significant difference in each of our lives--to create time for God.  And let's not forget that spending time with God in prayer is a two-way street.  God wants to give us something in return for our prayers.  He wants to give each of us the fruit of His Holy Spirit. The fruit of God's Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  The fruit of the Spirit of God creates a difference in the lives of those who believe. 

Who among us doesn't need this kind of fruit in his or her life in the coming year?  So in this New Year, let's spend time asking God to fill our thoughts and our hearts with the fruit of His Spirit.  May this New Year bring good health and happiness to you and your families.  I wish you all a Happy New Year.




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