Prayers for the New Year

Homily – Sunday, the 1st January 2023 – New Year Day Covenant Service

Reading: Psalm 147:13-20

Today as we begin a new day, a new week, a new month and a new year and pray “O Lord strengthen our gates” we are reminded that January was named after the Roman God Janus- the deity of beginnings and transitions and who presided over doors and gates. He is depicted with two faces- one looking backwards and the other forward. One looking at the past and the other on the future. He also had a key in his hands. Protection of the door or doorway was always a key theme of worshipping cultures. We today look back with gratitude and look forward with hope.

In 1874 the English poet Frances Ridley Havegal, the author of classics like Take my life and let it be and poetry volumes like Life Mosaics, Life Chords and Life Echoes wrote a new year covenant hymn

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee;
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above;
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

Yes we look back with a heart full of gratitude for what they Lord has been in our lives across the year that has gone by. For some it was a year of blessedness and for some a year of tough patches and loss.

Some were fine keeping God at a distance while others had to cling on God each step of the way- to survive the pangs of life.

Yet we thank the Lord for the year that has gone by and trust that the new year would be good.

I would like to draw a few Prayers for the New Year from the Psalm 147 that was read to us today. We could pick one, more or all of these prayers as our prayers for the new year, for us and for all of humanity

The Psalmist begins thanking God the benevolence and says

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the broken-hearted,
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.

And yes, that was the experience of many of us

In our contexts of brokenness we experienced the healing and the rebuilding

In our contexts of estrangement we experienced the gathering and brooding presence

In our wounds we experienced the binding presence

Innumerable as the stars may be, God named each, and each was precious to God

The Psalmist goes on to sing

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
    make melody to our God on the lyre.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
    prepares rain for the earth,
    makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the animals their food,
    and to the young ravens when they cry.

I come from a context wherein the raven is a very common household bird. My mother has names for a few and makes sure they are fed properly and she always says “When you hear the young ravens cry- God is calling you to feed them. If we have eaten, we have no right to deny them their right to eat.

The food that we ate, the water that we drank, the blessings that we enjoyed- we are called again at the beginning of the new year to be THANKFUL.

The Prayers for 2023

-1- The Lord strengthens the bars of your gates

I once preached a marriage homily on Song of Solomon 2:15. Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

Unless our gates are strong little foxes would finds its way in

The Little foxes include

Too Busy- Being Busy- Having no time for the family

Me Only- Being Selfish- Not able to appreciate others and acknowledge the space of others

Hard Heart- Being Harsh- Not able to express the love you have in your hearts.

Grumpy- Being complaining and Doubtful all the time

Many of us have read the Novel the Hunchback of NotreDame by Victor Hugo. It looks like the story Quassimodo the hunchback Cathedral bell ringer, half blind and fully deaf and his love to Esmeralda but in fact the hunchback of the Cathedral due to renovations not keeping in tune with the original architecture is the central imagery. The impact that he sees of the printing press- This will kill that- is noteworthy.

Hugo’s point is- we need to strengthen the bars of our gates lest nothing will be left for our generations.

Shaky gates are also experiences of church communities wherein we acknowledge what should never have crept in has in fact crept in. We strengthen our safe guarding mechanisms fully aware of what has gone wrong.

In our personal lives, in our family lives, in our community lives and in the life of the nations the bars of the gates needs strengthening.

Ideally we could look at a world without gates and fences, the borderless world but here we are talking about holes in the gates.

PRAYER 1- Strengthen the bars of our gates O Lord

-2- The Lord blesses your children within you

About the blessings of baby Jesus we are told

The child increased in age and in wisdom and grew in divine and human favour (Luke 2:52)

Blessing of age, Blessing of Wisdom, Blessing of Divine favour, Blessing of Human favour.

What are the blessings we can give our children

A Safe Home

A Space filled with Love

An upbringing with a Compassionate heart

A Sense of Value to each little blessing of Life

A heart that finds food, water and the environment precious

When we pray- Lord bless my children- What are you asking for

The Psalmist clarifies

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love.

This week the world bid farewell to Pele, the iconic soccer player. Every child should listen to what he once said- “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

What child do we called a “blessed child”.

Children are our children however old they are

And the prayer of each one of us could be

Prayer 2
Lord bless our children

-3- The Lord grants peace within your borders

When God offers peace and prosperity In a platter what can we do if in human folly we kick the platter away,

A young child once gave her mother a Christmas gift. The mother was so happy that she got a gift from her child and in all enthusiasm opened it. But to her dismay she realised it was an empty box all wrapped up. She was furious and tore off the box and gave a wack to he child. The child did not realise what was happening. The mother told her- never give an empty box as a gift.

The child said- Mamma the box was not empty. I had filled it with a thousand kisses of mine.

We have lessons from history

We heard of the sad demise of Pope Benedict the XVI who saw the cruelty of the concentration camps and devoted his life for the cause of life. He kept on pleading to the world- please be sane to learn from the mistakes of the past and commit not to repeat them.

In 2011 wishing the new year he prayed May the Face of the Son, the Prince of Peace help us to remain in the light of this face that shines upon us (cf. Nm 6:25), in order to rediscover all the tenderness of God the Father; may we invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he will renew the face of the earth and transform hearts, dissolving their hardness in the face of the disarming goodness of the Child who was born for us. May God accompany us in this New Year; and grant  for us and for the whole world the desired gift of peace. Amen. (Adapted from the Mother Mary version)

We have scientific pointers to the possible calamities if weapons are wrongly used. But in this age of biological and genetic warfare, when humans being engage in the same fully aware of the consequences- there is surely insanity prevailing over sanity.

The war we wage against nature and against each other be it in Kiev or Kosovo is in fact a war that would annihilate the generations yet to be. Yet we continue to do so.

The Lord grants peace and it is our responsibility to appropriate this peace.

Prayer 3
Lord grant us peace within your borders

-4- The Lord fills you with the finest of grains

When the granaries and barns of a few overflow the little stomachs of several children go empty nights together.

People migrate in search of food while the countries to which they migrate eat the grains of the homelands of the migrating people.

The 2022 Global Hunger Index indicates that overlapping crises have exposed the weakness of food systems and that global progress against hunger has largely stagnated in recent years. According to the report, the impacts of ongoing regional conflicts, climate change, COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, and high and volatile food, fertilizer, and fuel prices have drastically weakened the world’s already inadequate, unsustainable food systems. As a result, the world is experiencing the third global food crisis in less than two decades. The regions with the highest score in the Index are South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, which are considered serious. (World Bank Food Security Report 2022)

One third of all food produced is lost or wasted –around 1.3 billion tonnes of food –costing the global economy close to $940 billion each year. Up to 10% of global greenhouse gases comes from food that is produced, but not eaten. Source: United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) (2021).

Prayer 4
Lord give each home the grain they need and save us from the sin of food wastage.

-5- The Lord makes the wind blow and the waters flow.

If the wind is not blowing and waters are not flowing, why blame it on God today. Climate change is making unprecedented impacts on the lifes of communities around us.

The UNICEF report of 2022 on safe drinking water reports 771 million people still lacked even a basic level of service, including 282 who used a “limited” water service (improved source from which water collection exceeds 30 minutes), 367 million who used unimproved sources and 122 million who still collected drinking water directly from rivers, lakes, and other surface water sources. The data reveal pronounced disparities, with the poorest and those living in rural areas least likely to use a basic service. In most countries, the burden of water collection continues to fall mainly to women and girls.

The UN Secretary general responding to the IPCC report 2022 said that the report is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening and the evidence is irrefutable. Green house gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. The pattern of wind and water, weather and rains is being affected globally. Cold temperatures and hot temperatures untypical of January 1 is the reality in several parts of the world

Prayer 5
O Lord, give humanity wisdom not to interfere in the rhythm of waters flowing and winds blowing.

-6- The Lord declares his word to Jacob and statutes to Israel

Yes we need to hear the Word of God afresh. It is the Word of Life, Word of Love, Word of Justice, Word of Truth, Word of Salvation and Word that affect the course of history and humanity.

The Psalmist writes

He sends out his command to the earth;
    his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
    he scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down hail like crumbs—
    who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
    he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.

There is a divine rhythm to nature that is being affected by human interference and it is high time that we take the Word of God seriously

This is a beautiful picture of the Word, that was at the beginning, that was part of creation, re-engaging with the world.

The Word of God is God’s expectations and dreams as to how humanity should conduct life with dignity and responsibility.

However busy we are in 2023 our prayer should be

Open our ears Lord we want to hear

Open our hearts Lord we want to obey you

Prayer 6
Send Down Your Word O Lord and Heal Us

Vinod Victor

1st January 2023

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