Thursday, December 31, 2009

On the 7nd Day of Christmas: The New Year Approaches

There are two options for celebrating today, one is for the coming New Year and the other is the Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus.

Today we will focus on the New Year, and tomorrow the Circumcision and Name of Jesus.

As the new year approaches, the church gathers together, as the collect for the day says, commit to your mercies and forgiveness the year now ending
and commend to Your blessing and love the times yet to come.

One option might be to have Corporate Confession and Absolution at the beginning of the evening service.  It is also appropriate to receive the blessings of the Eucharist at this time as well.

New Year's Eve has themes that are similar to Advent and the close of the church year.  The Gospel lesson is from Luke 12:35-40 (ESV), where Jesus says,

"Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 
and be like men who are waiting for their master
to come home from the wedding feast,
so that they may open the door to him at once
when he comes and knocks.
 Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds awake when he comes.
Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service
and have them recline at table,
and he will come and serve them.
If he comes in the second watch, or in the third,
and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!
 But know this, that if the master of the house had known
at what hour the thief was coming,
he would not have left his house to be broken into.
You also must be ready,
for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

Another tradition that looks back on the past and forward to the future is the singing of "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." This hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 90, which happens to be the appointed Psalm for New Year's Eve.  Pardon the recording quality here, as All for Hymn makes room for Virgil Fox.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

The tune was irresistable to JS Bach, although the text came after his death.  Here's the fugue from BWV 552 based on the tune St. Anne.  This is not Virgil Fox, but it is a live recording! The melody is most prevalent in the opening motif, followed by the pedal parts.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone
And our defense is sure.