The Sunday after Christmas January 1, 2006
120(1-3, 5-6), 117, 716 [TLH alt. 118], 116(1-3, 6)
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let Israel now say, “His mercy endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron now say, “His mercy endures forever.” Let those who fear the LORD now say, “His mercy endures forever.” I called on the LORD in distress; The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The LORD is for me among those who help me; Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes…
I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.
In the name of the Lord our God who has made this day and has made it possible for us to rejoice in it—dear fellow-redeemed:
A few weeks ago I was in Menards. I walked back to what I would call their “Christmas Corner.” The area was darkened, but then lit up with all the shining ornaments and Christmas lights. Garland and decorations were everywhere. This corner had been made to look a little bit like the inside of a home decorated for Christmas. People walked through it while looking at all the gizmos and gadgets as they pushed shopping carts full of Christmas purchases. There was a sense of urgency as near-to-last-minute shoppers did their work. There was a sense of excitement and the expectation of Christmas.
I was back in Menards Saturday evening and it was hard to tell where the “Christmas Corner” had been. Everything was now lit with cold fluorescent ceiling lights; and in place of all the Christmas decorations were racks of garden seeds which will remain unplanted for months. The Christmas season is over, so we’re back to “regular” days.
Early this morning I went through my house in the time-honored ritual of changing calendars. In almost every home there is at least one calendar with all the “important” dates marked. These dates are highlighted or given a notation to remind us that that it’s uncle Ken’s birthday, Mom & Dad’s anniversary, or the holiday when the whole family is heading up north to do some fishing. The marked days are the highlights of every year and the rest of the days are just “ordinary.”
A year is characterized with the hills and valleys going up to the festive seasons and then down to the average work week. Up to holidays and celebrations and back down to the usual day-to-day schedule of school and work.
There are bound to be days in this life that will be happier and more exciting than others. Yet there is something we can say about every day whether it is a Sunday, Monday, or any other day of the week; whether it is day in a festive season or the worst week of your life; whether it is a holiday with a party, or whether you went to work this morning and came home with the flu. Regardless of the day and what it brings, we can always say, “This is the day the Lord has made. This is a day the Lord has given me, therefore, I will rejoice and be glad in it!”
Today’s date is January 1st which means there are 365 days stretched out before you in this new year. If God gives you life in each one of those days then each one of those days is a day the Lord has made for you. With that knowledge your scriptural motto for 2006 can be: Carpe Diem!—SEIZE THE DAY! Why? Because I. It is a day of thanksgiving II. It is a day of redemption and III. It is a day of opportunity.
“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” [v.1] We all know it, we speak of it often, and yet we can lose sight of how richly we are blessed with good gifts from God. We give thanks to God regularly and caution ourselves against taking those gifts for granted, and yet we still do. It is ironic that having such an abundance of blessings so easily leads to thanklessness. The things that make our daily life so routine are themselves enough reason to greet each new day with joy and to seize it with thanksgiving.
The day starts and the clock radio clicks “on” to wake you up. We’ve grown accustomed to warm beds, and the technology of alarm clocks seems almost prehistoric it is so simple. So we turn off the alarm and there isn’t a great deal of awe or thanksgiving. We stumble out of bed to the shower which is warm and indoors. A little later, breakfast provides as much as we would want, even though many of us are in too big of a hurry to enjoy it, much less be thankful for it. We catch up on the news of the world through TV and the newspaper, then hop in a car that’s filled with gas, running well, and taking us wherever we want to go whenever we want to go there. On the way, we notice a beautiful sunrise and the rest of the beauty around us. All of these things are part of an ordinary beginning to an ordinary day, and all within the space of the day’s first 90 minutes. Each one of these things is “small” by comparison, and yet worthy of thanksgiving. If the simple beginnings of a new day are thank-worthy, by all means Seize the Day with thanksgiving because there are surely even greater things to follow.
The Lord is good. He provides for our earthly needs, and indeed He provides well beyond our needs. “Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). All the good gifts come to us without any merit on our part. They flow out of God’s mercy—His loving compassion which He has on us, sinners though we are.
There is more reason for thanksgiving. God’s mercy endures forever and is shown to us anew each day. Each new day God extends His grace to us by forgiving our sins and giving us opportunities to serve Him.
When we realize what life is and what each new day is, it produces thanksgiving. Our life is our time of grace—the time for each of us sinners to hear God’s Word, be brought to faith and then exercise that faith in serving the Lord and others with the Gospel. Each new day is a day that God has added to our time of grace for our own blessing or for someone else’s…or for both! This gives purpose to each new day, and since that purpose is from the Lord He promises to bless it. This all means that in some way (whether we see it or not) as we’re following and serving our Lord each day will have purpose and success!
Do you know how many people live each day without purpose and without success because they don’t have the confidence in the Lord that you have? If you can wake up to a new morning and a new year—feel that you still have flesh and blood and then know that you have purpose and success waiting for you. That is a reason to be thankful and to go out and seize the day!
There is more. “I called on the LORD in distress; The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The LORD is for me among those who help me; Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me. It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in princes.” [vv.5-9]
Each and every day we have the ability to call upon the Lord for help in every trouble, for guidance along the way, and for any need we may have; and God answers those prayers.
Prayer is something that is easily bypassed and overlooked in the day-to-day rush, but to miss it is to dismiss a tremendous gift which we have available each day and for which we can be thankful each day.
Each new day can be seized with thanksgiving as we begin that day with prayer, asking for the Lord’s protection, His blessing, His rescue. Then as the specific events of each day unfold, continue to pray for those specific needs, and continue to give thanks for those specific blessings.
Through prayer you are approaching the One who “rides the heavens to help you…and underneath are [His] everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:26f). You can put complete confidence in God and not be afraid of whatever a new day or a new year might hold. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). The answer is, “No one!”
Some people treat God as a “reserve tank” filled with courage and confidence. They go along life thinking, “I’ll use my own courage and confidence and ability until I get in a tough place, then I’ll switch over to the Lord’s reserves until I’m able to do it again on my own. When God compares trusting in man vs. trusting in Him, it is not a neutral situation. God does not say: “Its better to trust in Me, but you can trust in yourself and others too and still come out alright—you can go either way.” In Jeremiah God plainly says, “Cursed is the man who trusts man and makes flesh his strength whose heart departs from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5). And if anyone says “…but…but I can trust in man and my heart still won’t depart from the Lord” God’s response is, “Oh foolish one, you are deceiving yourself.”
When we pray, God answers us out of His wisdom and grace. This leave us with confidence and thanksgiving to say with the psalmist, “I love the LORD, because He has heard my voice and my supplications” (Psalm 116:1).
There is so much for which to be thankful, not just by looking back to the past but in each new day. So SEIZE THE DAY with thanksgiving!
There are 365 days in the coming year. At the end of each of those days we’ll look at our lives, see sin, and cry, “God be merciful to me sinner.” If we look honestly at our lives, this will be true each day of the new year. There won’t be 364 days when you’ll be in need of redemption and then one day in which you’ll make it on your own. Each day we are affected by sin.
Each new day is, therefore, a day of sin. If that is where the day’s story ended, we would want to hide from the day rather than seize it. However, each day is also a day of redemption. Each new day is a day of redemption in which the blessings of Christ’s redemption come to you. “I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.” [vv.21-23]
It is opportune that Christmas comes right before our new year. Our celebration of Christmas reminds us of Jesus—God’s gift of grace for our salvation. The work of Jesus didn’t just start when He entered His public ministry. Jesus was born under the law to redeem us who are under the law (cf. Galatians 3:4f). From His birth, Jesus completed the Law including being circumcised when He was one week old. Then in time He suffered and died having kept the Law perfectly throughout His life, thereby making His death a sacrifice that could pay the penalty of our sins. Having died for our sins, Jesus also rose back to life and defeated death for us. Through this “package” of salvation, we receive forgiveness from God’s grace and that gift of grace flows to us daily to forgive our sins.
Jesus, our Redeemer is the cornerstone on which we can build each new day in spite of our sin. The psalmist of our text foretold of how Jesus, the cornerstone, would be rejected; but Peter tells us: “This…stone which was rejected by the builders…has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12)
Jesus has become the cornerstone of our faith and of His Church—all believers. As members of Christ’s church He is our cornerstone. Each new day we wake up as a redeemed child of God.
We are each humbly aware of our failings and sins, but SEIZE THE DAY with the joy of salvation because Jesus has lived, died, and shed His blood, for you.
“This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.” [vv. 24-25]
Sooner or later, we will run out of days on this earth to seize. That means that now is the time to seize them and to use them to serve our Savior. Now, during our time of life on the earth, is when God gives us opportunity. Now, is the time to seize them. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes: “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)…“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Seize the day because your days are becoming fewer (even if you are young). Seizing the day simply for our own personal pursuits and pleasures is only selfish and leads to fading pleasure and destruction. The LORD has made this day and is giving opportunity to bear fruits of faith, to give glory to Him, and to share the Gospel with others. “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
The apostle Paul encourages us especially concerning the opportunity of bringing the Gospel to others: “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:5-6). Redeeming the time is to make the best use of the time and opportunities that God gives—now! Redeeming the time is to work now while it is day before the night comes when no one can work.
Seize the day! Take hold of it and serve the Lord with gladness. This is the day and year the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it . Seize the say with all your might in thanksgiving, with the joy of salvation, and the eagerness to redeem the time serving our LORD toward His glory.
Father let me dedicate,
all this year to Thee,
In whatever earthly state
Thou wilt have me be.
Let my glad heart while it sings,
Thee in all proclaim
And whate’er the future brings:
Glorify Thy name! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.