New Year’s Eve December 31, 2021
Text: Genesis 32:22-28 21:2294
Theme: We Will Not Let You Go, Lord, Until You Bless Us
Part I: How did things go this past year?
At midnight begins a brand new year. For us in modern times, the New Year always comes with the month we call January. Do you have any idea where we get the name January?
Many of the names for our months are of Latin origin and come from the ancient Romans. For example, July comes from the name of the first world-renowned Roman emperor. His name???? Julius. How about August? It comes from the name of another Roman emperor. And he is….? (“there went out a decree from….”) How about January? I’ll bet you don’t know that one.
It comes from the name of the Roman god Janus. He had two faces back-to-back. One looked forward to the future, while the other looked backward in retrospect. He symbolized change and transition, like the change of time, because he saw the past with one face and the future with the other. He was considered the god of new beginnings and open doors. Thus, his name was given to the first month of our year – January. Think of that. The name of the first month of our year is given to a god who never existed.
But there is something from the story of Janus that we can utilize this night – the ability to look backward in retrospect and to look forward to the year that lies ahead. That is a good exercise for us that the true God of the Bible often encouraged His people to do.
Let’s start with the past. How did things go this past year? What did you do? Where were you headed? Why did you do what you did? Sometimes we don’t always have the answers for questions like that. But there is something good about looking backward and evaluating where we came from. Perhaps we’ll continue the same direction, if it was beneficial. Maybe we should make a change if it was headed in a wrong direction. If you don’t look back and evaluate, you can’t grow from your experience.
How about things in your relationship with God? Was there growth? Was there direction? Was it headed in a good way? Are you closer to Him tonight than you were 364 days ago? How did things go this past year?
Sometimes it’s difficult to say. But of one thing you can be sure – amidst the challenges, God was ever gracious and faithful to you. Things do not change with Him. In Christ He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That’s past, present, and future. This He promises to all who look to Him in faith.
Mindful of His mercies this past year, we join in the hymn of praise printed in your bulletin: “The Lord hath Helped us Hitherto.”
Part II: We cling to God.
Considering our two-way look this evening, the words of our text can be helpful. It comes from the patriarch Jacob’s life in the Old Testament. Let’s listen to the account: text.
This incident took place after Jacob took a retrospective look at his past and rated himself. He rated himself as “unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness” that God had shown him (v.10).
You see, Jacob lived up to his name, which means “a heal grabber”, that is “a deceiver.” Many years before this account, he caused trouble in his father’s house because of his greed and failure to trust in God and His promises.
First, he tricked his brother Esau out of the birthright of the eldest son. Then he deceived his father Isaac into pronouncing the blessing on him instead. God intended the blessing to go to Jacob. But God did not intend Jacob to use deceit, trickery, and lies to get it for himself. Because of the way he went about it, God was saddened, and Esau was enraged. Esau sought revenge. At that time, 20 years before our text, Jacob had to flee for his life.
Penniless he fled to the home of his Uncle Laban in the distant land of Padan Aram. There he worked for Laban over 20 years. Even though he had sinned, the Lord still loved him and prospered him while he was there.
At the time of our text those 20 years are over, and Jacob is returning home. However, he was no longer penniless as when he had left. He was a wealthy man with a large family, servants, and many flocks and herds. God had blessed him.
As he drew near to his home and looked ahead, the thought of the past overwhelmed him. His sin haunted him, and his steps grew heavy with fear and uncertainty. What would his father say? How would his brother receive him? Were they bent on revenge? Then the news came that Esau was on his way to meet him with 400 armed men. Now Jacob was really afraid and in distress for his actions of the past. What harm might lie ahead of him in the future because of his faithless past?
The night before it all came down, he sent his family across the river ahead of him while he remained behind. During the night a mysterious visitor confronted him. Jacob seized him, wrestling with him till daybreak. During that time Jacob became aware that it was the Lord Himself, appearing to him in human form. Jacob clung to Him in desperation. So strongly did he lay hold of the Lord that we are told that the Lord could not overpower Jacob.
Dear friends, think of that. The almighty God is said to have not been able to overpower Jacob because Jacob clung so tightly to Him. How are we to understand this? – because the Lord is almighty; nothing can stop Him. In His omnipotence nothing is impossible for Him to do. Certainly, no mortal can restrain Him.
Perhaps it is better for us not to try to explain this, but rather to let the words of the Scriptures stand for themselves. Those words tell us: “When the Lord saw that he could not overpower Jacob, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with Him. Then the Lord said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob kept hold of Him and would not let go. He replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Dear Christian friends, those are powerful words for us to consider in these waning hours of the year, for the past has had its share of ups and downs for us, too. Like Jacob of old we have had many experiences, some good, some bad. There have been regrettable sins and challenging situations. Some things have frightened us. But in this hour, we come to almighty and gracious God. We cling to Him like Jacob did and pray, “We will not let you go until you bless us.” We join in singing the hymn: “Your Little Ones, Dear Lord, Are We.”
Part III. We go forward in Christ, our Savior.
Only a small stream of time lies between us and the year 2010. But, like Jacob, we have not yet crossed over it. We are still on this side. What awaits us on the other side? We don’t know yet.
Some who like to predict the future, tell us bad things lie ahead. Because of that many will cross over worried, even angry this night. But even if the worst that people predict should take place in the year that lies ahead, let it happen. Christians will not fear because we do not go forward alone.
Jacob did not cross his stream alone either. The Savior went with him. With the Savior by his side, Jacob was kept safe. In fact, the bad things which Jacob expected never materialized as the Lord intervened. Instead of revenge, his brother Esau welcomed him with open arms, having forgiven him.
In a similar way as the redeemed of God who cling to Him in faith, we do not go forward alone. We go forward in Christ, our Savior. It is that Savior who promises: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.…For I am the Lord, your God, the holy One of Israel, your Savior….Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you…do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Is.43:1f).
The One who laid in the manger at Bethlehem, who died on the cross of Calvary, who rose from the grave on Easter, He blesses us by forgiving the sins of the past and granting us His abundant grace in the future. He will go with us every step of the way, even as He did this past year. He will never leave or forsake us, so there is no cause to fear. In faith we are His, and He is ours.
So, in the fading hours of this old year, we join with Jacob in wrestling with God. Do not let Him go. Cling to Him in faith and go forward in Christ. He will bless us. God grant it to us in faith as we join to sing our next hymn: “Abide with Me.”
New Year’s Eve December 31, 2021
Lord, there remains only a short span of time separating us from the New Year. Mindful of Your mercies in the past, we kneel before You in worship this night. The past is filled with images of our mortality and weakness. But You are immortal, and evidence of Your strength abounds. Therefore, in this quiet hour of the fading year, lead us to appreciate anew Your eternal love for us. Take hold of us and in Your grace grant us the fulfillment of Your promises in Christ. As You have been our help in the past, be our hope for the year to come. Do not let us journey into the New Year without You, for with You at our side we shall stand secure. Grant it to us this night for Your name’s sake. Amen.
Departing the Old and Entering the New in Jesus’ Name
The Order of Service: Close of Day (“Compline”)
Pastor: The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night as we end the present year, and peace as we enter the new year.
Pastor: It is good to give thanks to the Lord.
Congr: To sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
Pastor: To herald Your love in the morning,
Congr: Your truth at the close of day.
The Hymn: “Across the Sky the Shades of Night” 69
The Confession of Sins
Pastor: Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
All: We have sinned against You in our thoughts, in our words, in our deeds, and in all that we have not done. Forgive us in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Deliver and restore us, that we may rest in peace.
The Psalm (Psalm 90): “O God, Our Help In Ages Past” 441
The Lesson: Genesis 32:22-28 Several meditations will follow based on the story of Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob would not let the Lord go until He had blessed him for that which lay ahead for Jacob and his family.
We Will Not Let You Go, Lord, Until You Bless Us!
Part I: How did things go this past year?
The Hymn: “The Lord Has Helped Me Hitherto” (TLH 33:1,2)
The Lord has helped me hitherto By His surpassing favor;
His mercies ev’ry morn were new, His kindness did not waver.
God hitherto has been my Guide, Has pleasures hitherto supplied,
And hitherto has helped me.
I praise and thank Thee, Lord, my God, For Thine abundant blessing
Which heretofore Thou hast bestowed And I am still possessing.
Inscribe this on my memory: The Lord has done great things for me
And graciously has helped me.
Part II: We cling to God!
The Hymn: “Your Little Ones, Dear Lord, Are We” 46
Part III: We go forward in Christ!
The Hymn: “Abide With Me” st.1,5,6,7 588
(The Offering will not be taken in the worship service this evening. The offering plates are placed at the door where you may place your gift this evening as you leave.)
Pastor: Hear my prayer, O Lord;
Congr: Listen to my cry.
Pastor: Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Congr: Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Pastor: In righteousness I shall see You;
Congr: When I awake, Your presence will give my joy.
Pastor: Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this closing year, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world may rest in Your eternal changelessness.
Congr: You have been gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love. As you led Your people Israel with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, so lead us by the light of Your Word that we may live our lives to Your glory and be prepared to die in Your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer Hymnal p.20
The Consecration and Distribution of Holy Communion
(We invite our communicant members to the Lord’s Table, believing that in the bread and wine, they receive the Savior’s true body and blood for forgiveness. Because Holy Communion implies a oneness of faith and confession, our practice is that of close communion. If you are a visitor, please speak with the Pastor before communing. Thank you.)
The Song of Simeon
All: In peace, Lord, You let Your servant now depart according to Your word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for every people, a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.
Pastor: Let us praise the Lord.
Congr: Thanks be to God
Congr: (sung) Amen.
The Closing Hymn: “Immanuel, God with Us” trio
(Our service this evening incorporates in it a form of the ancient service of “Compline.” Around 9 pm, Compline was used in Christian communities long ago to end the day in worship. Before rest at night, it is the hour in which the Christian commends himself into the safe hands of his Lord. It has been restored to use in the WELS new hymnal, Christian Worship – 21, as a devotional to be used in church, small gatherings, or in the family setting.)
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Point to Ponder: “This evening closes one chapter of Christians’ lives and places them before the opening of another. It reminds them of the rapid flight of time, of the end of their earthly pilgrimage, and of eternity. The solemn reflections thus awakened in them they do not brush aside with a few superficial New Year’s resolutions. Still less do they try to drown them in rounds of pleasure. They face them in sober mood; and their thoughts soon find expression in prayer which comforts and strengthens, which brings hope and joy. Thus a solemn occasion is transformed into a season of grace.”
Rev. Wm C. Burhop – A Perfect Prayer for New Year’s Eve from 1954
(Rev. Burhop was Pastor Lehmann’s grandfather)
Lord, You have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations. Psalm 90:1
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
4717 S. Farm Road 135 (Golden Ave.)
Springfield, Missouri 65810