In these times of economic crisis and global uncertainty, of wars around the world and crimes in our own neighborhoods, of global poverty, hunger, and disease, we can easily feel overwhelmed as we face the unknowns of a new year. As Christians, though, we step into the new year with faith and confidence, knowing our God has been faithful in the past and promises to remain so. We step forward, humbly acknowledging our sin of the past, our dependence on God’s grace, and the impossibility of facing the coming year in our own strength. We step forward with hope and joy because our God is great and worthy of praise. It’s a lot to pack into one service, but by using the psalms as its framework, the following service expresses each of those realities. —JB
Call to Worship
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. (Ps. 150:6)
Opening Song: “O Give the Lord Wholehearted Praise” (st. 1) PsH 111
“Let All Creation Bless the Lord” SNC 34
“Let All Things Now Living” CH 794, PH 554, PsH 453, TH 125, WR 22
“How Great Is Our God” CSW 3
Message of Thanksgiving: Psalm 103:1-5
We begin by “forgetting not”—by remembering the benefits of knowing the Lord. We do this by looking back over the previous year and remembering God’s faithfulness through times of joy and times of sorrow and in all the ordinary events of our lives.
Song: “O Come, My Soul, Sing Praise to God” PsH 297, TH 6
“Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” CH 1, PH 478, PsH 475, TH 76/77, WR 82
“One Generation Will Call to the Next” CSW 4
“Bless the Lord, My Soul” SNC 256
“We Give Thanks Unto You” SNC 26
Message of Promise: Psalm 27:1-3
We rejoice that the promise of those benefits is secure. We exult in the fact that our enemies, whatever form they may take, will stumble and fall because the Lord is our Light and our salvation.
Song: “O Lord, You Are My Light” PsH 164
“The Lord Is My Light” SNC 192
Call to Lament for Our Sinfulness: Psalm 51:1-4
In spite of the benefits, and regardless of the safety of walking with the Savior, we walk away from our Light and our salvation, and we pay the consequences. We admit our failures during the previous year, and we ask God to cause us to sin less often in the coming year, for shorter periods of time, and to enjoy our sin less.
Song: “Be Merciful, Be Merciful, O God” PsH 51
“God, Be Merciful to Me” PsH 255, TH 486
“God, Be Merciful to Me” CSW 9
Call to Lament for the Suffering Caused by Others: Psalm 73:1-5; 18, 19, 27, 28
Rather than becoming cynical about living in a dog-eat-dog world, rather than playing by those rules, which tell us to bend the rules, we complain to God. We point out to God the suffering and pain caused by others. And when we do, we see God bring justice and goodness, and we give thanks.
Song: “Deeper Than the Sea” CSW 25
“Let God Arise and by His Might” PsH 68
Message of Commitment: Psalm 119:9-16
Having remembered the benefits of knowing the Lord, having received God’s promise, experienced God’s forgiveness, and cheered God’s justice, we now commit ourselves once again to God as we enter the new year. We commit to meditating on God’s law, to letting God’s Word direct our paths, and to seeking God’s wisdom in our lives.
Song: “How Shall the Young Direct Their Way” PsH 584, TH 148
“Speak, O Lord” CSW 17
“Thy Word” SNC 86
Prayer of Confession and Recommitment (see sidebar)
Message of Continuing Promise: Psalm 46:1-3
We recognize that our path may not always be smooth. We acknowledge that there will be times when our world is shaken, when life roars, when there is no peace. Even then, we rejoice because God is our refuge, our ever-present help in trouble.
Song: “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” PH 191, PsH 46, TH 40
“God, Our Help and Constant Refuge” SNC 183
Message of Praise: Psalm 111:1-4
Having seen the benefits of knowing God, having received God’s forgiveness, having been assured of God’s justice, and having recommitted our lives to God, we express our wonder and awe in wholehearted praise. Regardless of the perceptions of those around us, we praise the Lord.
Song: “O Give the Lord Wholehearted Praise” (st. 1-2) PsH 111
“In Christ Alone” CSW 20
We have experienced the blessing of the Lord this past year. We have seen God’s face shine on us. We have known God’s grace. The Lord has kept us and blessed us, and we have known his peace. Secure in God’s blessing, we go forward.
Song: “O Give The Lord Wholehearted Praise” (st. 3) PsH 111
“We Receive Your Blessing” CSW 37
Lord, we give thanks for your faithfulness through this past year, and for all our years. Ever since you created the world, you have been faithful, and this past year is one more example of your goodness. We thank you for births. We thank you for healing. We thank you for courage in the midst of tears. We thank you for comfort in the midst of despair. We thank you for strength in our weakness. We thank you for your faithfulness.
Lord, we also confess our faithlessness. We thought we had better things to do than spend time with you. We had other sources of hope, apart from you. We went looking for satisfaction and meaning from other gods, yes, other gods, apart from you. And we paid the consequences for it. We lost meaning, we lost hope. We lost when we left your path to go our own way. We confess our sins, and that brings us back to thanksgiving. We are thankful because your forgiveness is constant, your love is unfailing. We confess, and are grateful to find you welcoming us back.
You protect us from the wickedness of this world. There is so much hurt, so much evil, so much injustice. We see how people fail to care for your world, and we grieve. We see how people treat one another, and it horrifies us. We see evil people getting away with it, and sometimes we give up hope.
And then we see you move and act and restore and judge. And when we see you at work in your world, we cheer; we praise. And we recommit ourselves to you. We want what you want, Lord. We want a world that worships you. We want an earth that is healthy. We want marriages to be life-giving. We want children to grow in wonder and awe and love for you. We want every part of this world to be cleansed by the blood of your Son on the cross. We want our actions and our words and our thoughts to be holy. We want our lives to be controlled by you, every movement, every decision, everything—yours.
We want these things so that our everyday lives bring praise to you. When people look at us we want them to know, without any doubt, that we belong to you, and the whole world belongs to you.
We thank you for this past year. We trust you for the new year. Amen.