Der Vasken’s Sermon on December 31, 2023

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

The year 2024 is now almost twelve hours away which means we are standing in front of two doors. We will soon close one and open the other. This is the time of year when many of us look back over the last twelve months to see how we did or how we could have done better. It is the time of year when many of us look forward to the New Year with hopeful hearts. December is ending. January is beginning. Do we look back or do we look forward? When we look backward, what is it that we hope to see? When we turn our attention forward, are our hopes any different?

I think about these types of questions all the time. Looking back over the past twelve months, the answers for me were obvious. It is what I want to share on this last Sunday of the year. In 2023, many of us saw a great deal of happiness. There were marriages celebrated. There were births and baptisms and anniversaries and graduations and promotions and special birthdays reached. Many people were fortunate to have seen a lot of happiness. At the same time, many of us saw great challenges and difficult days. We saw the passing of loved ones. We saw setbacks and plans that never materialized. We saw wars break out around the world even in our homeland, leaving more than 100,000 people—elderly and children, mothers and fathers, doctors and farmers, teachers and clergy, who had to leave their ancestral home and lands that have been in their family for countless generations—leaving for the first time in history the land called Artsakh without ONE Armenian person living there.

As I mentioned last Sunday evening, even the Church of the Nativity and all of Manger Square in Bethlehem were forced to stay dark on Christmas Eve for the first time ever. So we have to wonder why was peace so hard to come by in 2023? We have to ask what can I do to help bring about peace in my corner of the world in the coming year?

I tend to think about my life as we leave one year and begin another. Did I help bring peace into my small corner of the world? Did I make things worse? Did I help or did I hurt? Did I extend my hand when needed or did I pull it away? I find asking these types of questions to be a healthy exercise.

The end of the year is an ideal time to consider what adjustments we can make to strengthen our spiritual lives in the New Year and help bring about more peace in some small way. To find true peace, we need to spend time with God in prayer. So that is why we placed in today’s Sunday Bulletin a prayer that has been prayed in the Armenian Church for centuries. This is a prayer from the Morning Service and speaks of the Peace of God.

In this New Year, it would be very proper for each of us to find the time every day to offer this prayer. This prayer will make a noticeable difference in all of our lives. The prayer reads like this: “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, only-begotten Son of God, our peace and our life, Who was sent from the Father, give me Your Peace, which You granted to Your holy Apostles by breathing into them Your life-giving and all powerful Holy Spirit. So that having calmed down from all worldly anxiety, like the Apostles, I also may become a temple and a Home for Your Grace. And giving thanks, I will glorify You, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, O Christ our God, now and always and unto the ages of ages, Amen.”

It is a beautiful prayer and much needed to be prayed. Who among us doesn’t need this kind of peace in his or her life? So in this New Year, let’s spend time asking God to breathe His Peace into us so that we, in turn, can breathe it out and make the life of others better. May we pray this prayer every day, every week or whenever we can. May this New Year bring health and happiness to us all.

Happy New Year everyone!

Amen.

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