Yes, you read that correctly, and no, you have not gone back in time to December 25th. In the liturgical calendar, Christmas is more than just a one-day holiday. It spans 12 days, beginning on December 25th and ending on January 5th. And yes, in case you're starting to put two and two together, the song "12 Days of Christmas" is referring to this very season. So, if you were feeling blue about having to take down your Christmas decorations already, you don't have to! It is totally acceptable (not to mention more fun and enjoyable) to leave them up until the 5th of January. See, the liturgical calendar can be fun too!
This Sunday will be not only the first Sunday of the new year but the first day as well. We hope that you will begin the new year with us by worshipping God on the Lord's Day. We will also be observing the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and Pastor John's sermon will be based in Deuteronomy and Moses's charging the Israelites to "remember the Lord your God," and to "take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes." The new year often brings reflection and causes us to take stock of our lives, whether it be physically, spiritually, or otherwise. God's Word reminds us that at the forefront of all things, we are to remember what God has done for us in Christ, and taking the Lord's Supper to start off the year is a great way to do that.
Although most of the songs and elements of the service will be centered around this idea of remembering, I did want us to still find a way to celebrate Christmas in the service, since that is the current season which we are now in. So, I selected "Angels from the Realms of Glory" as our Song of Ascent. It calls us, like the shepherds in the fields, to "come and worship Christ the new-born King," and so do we who gather together on the Lord's Day. As we focus this season on Christ's incarnation, this hymn reminds us that "God with man is now residing."
Our psalm for this week will be sung as the Hymn of Praise this week, and will be taken from the first 16 verses of Psalm 119. This section of the psalm talks about the importance and blessing of not departing from God's Word and Law, not forgetting His precepts and statutes, and walking in God's will and way. This would be a great reminder as we begin the new year regardless of what the sermon was, but it ties in with the Moses's initial charge to the Israelites in John's sermon passage. The tune for this week's psalm is a modern hymn that we love to sing here at Covenant, "In Christ Alone."
In keeping with the theme of remembrance, this week's Hymn of Rejoicing is a marvelous hymn that calls upon God as our "help in ages past," and goes through a great litany of things for which we can thank and praise Him: the fact that we dwell secure in our salvation in Him, that He is the great Creator and Sustainer of all things, and that He is our guide and guard through all of our earthly journey in this life, just to name a few. It is a great hymn of the faith, and a great declaration of the holy, majestic, awesome God that we worship as we begin the new year. As I remind us from time to time, it isn't that a New Year's Day service is the only time that we should do this. We acknowledge God as God and commit ourselves to follow and worship Him continually. But special occasions such as the beginning of a new year and wonderful and appropriate times for us to set aside time to focus specifically on doing just that. And so we do as we gather together this Sunday.
For our hymn of preparation, we will sing another wonderful, well-loved hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." This hymn reminds us, before we partake of the Lord's Supper, that even we who have been redeemed by Christ are still "prone to wander," but that God, in His grace and mercy, has allowed us to partake of the bread and fruit of the vine as a very real means of grace, all to His glory alone.