Der Vasken’s Sermon on January 2, 2022

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

I have a New Year’s Eve tradition that I have held on to for many years now. Every year on December 31st, I enter our church to set up for the following Sunday. When everything is in place, I sit down in one of these chairs and think back over the past year of my life and the life of our parish. I think about all that took place here over the past twelve months. This year it continued to be a challenging year in many ways both for the parish life and for the lives of our families.

The COVID virus continued to rear its ugly head. The COVID restrictions have taken a clear toll on us as a community. Where we work and how we work have been affected. Church attendance is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. Of course, the fact that the numbers of people infected by this illness are moving higher rather than lower and certainly the news that came out of Armenia and Artsakh are troubling and concerning.

As I sat in that chair, I thought about dear parishioners, who were laid to rest within these walls. I thought about the students of our Sunday School, who received their first Bible because they had reached the third grade. I thought about the visitations we did over the past twelve months in homes, in hospitals, in nursing homes and over the phone or through emails and texting. I thought about the faces in jour Easter and Christmas Eve crowds and the innocent faces of the children, who took part in our wonderful Christmas pageant and tree lighting outside on Hollisian Plaza. I thought about the moments spent keeping grooms-to-be calm in the back of the church just moments before a wedding.

While sitting in that chair, I thought about the people involved with sacraments and services of our church. I brought to mind as many of these faces as I could. I saw the joyous faces of young mothers and fathers bringing their children to church for baptism. I saw the mournful eyes of adult children attending the funeral of a parent. I saw the joyous tears of a bride as she stood before this Holy Altar side-by-side with the groom of her dreams.

Different people, different emotions, different times of their lives, but the same faith, the same cross, the same church. We did well even in the face of challenges. That was the day of New Year’s Eve and that was what I spent time thinking about, but I know that many people spend that night coming up with their New Year’s resolutions—to exercise more, to procrastinate less, to quit smoking, to become more organized, to save more and have less debt.

We talk about resolutions a lot when facing a New Year. We make a list and we promise ourselves that this year we are going to do better. Resolutions are signs of what we want for the future. They are symbols of what we want to accomplish in the months ahead. They are our hopes and dreams for tomorrow. Some years were better at fulfilling them than others.

So as we close out one year and look forward to the promises of another, let us focus on the fact that we have a heavenly Father, Who loves us and walks with us and because of that, I want to start this year with four verses from the Prophet Isaiah, who says: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even the young will become weak and tired and young men will fall to exhaustion, but those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles and not grow weary.

As we enter this New Year, let us remind ourselves that, in the eyes of God, we are precious;
we are cherished and that God loves each of us. Today, we start a new beginning. Let us thank God for life and for the blessings He has given us. High among them are our families, our health, our freedom and the opportunities of a new year because those who trust in the Lord will find new strength and they will soar high on wings like eagles. Let’s make that our New Year’s resolution—to trust in the Lord so we may soar and not grow weary in this New Year.

A Happy & Healthy New Year to us all.

Amen.

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