New Year’s Day, 2012
Isaiah 61:10-62:3 Psalm 148 Galatians 4:4-7 Luke 2:22-40
Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
Why is it so hard to let go of “stuff.” I’m not a hoarder, my house is not a fire trap due to excess newspapers, magazines, collectibles, gathering dust. One can easily walk from room to room with only an occasional pile of books to step over. Still I have boxes of stuff in my home, the accumulation of a lifetime. I have toys, odds and ends, homemade cards, stuff I’ve written from my childhood stored away in an old roll top desk, memories of a person I can hardly recognize, much less remember. I have papers written in college that impress me at how smart I once was. That person is long gone. I have college textbooks along with a small library of books I’ve collected over the years. You never know when I might want to pick up Mandarin Chinese or see if I can resurrect the Russian I studied all through college. Have to keep those books.
And then there is my children’s memorabilia. Not just pictures and cards they made for me, but each has their own store of treasures, kept at my house. I’m as loath to throw these out as I am to throw out my own.
What is it about these that has me trapped, keeps me from letting them go while others pitch and toss with no regrets? Perhaps it’s because of the memories attached to each item of a forgotten childhood and youth. Memories that only come back when I pick up a memento or read the words, memories that were forgotten.
It’s so easy to forget, seems to get easier with each passing year. You swear you will never forget, only to forget the swearing. Years pass and with each year come more memories. You have to let go of some in order to clear away space in your brain for the new. I hang on to memorabilia in the hopes of hanging on to the memories, with the thought that someday I just may need this tidbit, maybe as part of a story, or a memoir.
Another reason I find it so hard to throw out, is my dislike for waste. I don’t like to see food wasted so it sits in my refrigerator long past the sell by date until I am finally reassured it needs to be thrown out. I don’t throw out clothes I rarely wear, appliances I no longer use, out-dated electronics, thinking someday, they may prove useful again. The minute I get rid of something, I find I need it! I abhor waste, even wasting time. Time is far too precious to waste. And worst of all, a wasted life. I don’t know where this dislike for waste came from, I just know it is strong inside me. I don’t want to waste any minute of this life God has given me.
Each year, at the beginning of a new year, we sing, auld lang syne, old long ago. We ring in the old, ring out the new, and ask the question: should old acquaintances be forgot? The implied answer is, no, we should not forget old friends, times gone past, even as we welcome in the new, but it is a question worth asking. When is it time to let go of the old for the new? Can we have it both ways? Can we treasure the past while embracing the future?
And I wonder, what would Jesus say about my boxes of memories? They aren’t of value to anyone but me. Should I pitch and toss? What does Scripture say?
Our psalm for today is a psalm of praise, the third of five Hallelujah psalms that conclude the book of Psalms. The writer calls for all of creation to praise the Lord, all creation in heaven, on earth and under the earth. It is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the heavens, angels, sun, moon and stars, all praise the Lord. Where heathen nations worshipped the sun, moon and stars as divinities, they are clearly under God’s command for God created them (vs. 5). Section ends with a refrain, vs. 5-6, sung by the choir in response to the call for praise.
The second part deals with all earthly creation, including the depths of the earth and sea and all that arise out of them, fire, hail, snow, frost and stormy winds (vs. 7-8). They, too, are under the Lord’s command and acknowledge him. Then the earth (vs. 9-10), mountains, hills, trees, animals; finally all people, kings and queens, the high and mighty, the old and the young (vs. 11-12), all praise the Lord. This section concludes with a second refrain (vs. 13-14).
The order of praise follows the order of creation in Genesis 1. The attitude of the writer parallels that of the Genesis 1, with the earth, all creation being good, very positive psalm, all the world is under God’s command. This would be a psalm of orientation based on Walter Breuggeman’s definition. However, we know that not all of God’s creations give proof of God’s goodness. Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, all wreak havoc on creation, destroying life, creating waste, and bringing into question the goodness of our God. The psalmist doesn’t deal with these questions, focusing only on the importance of praise and in doing so reminding us that our blessings outnumber our problems, that we owe to God that which is rightfully God’s, our praise. As one commentator states, “The blessings far outnumber the trials. There is a problem of pain, and the facts of life continually remind us of it. The problem may become most acute when we seek to lift up our hearts in praise. The contrast between the realities we see and feel and the praise we offer is too obvious. Yet as praise continues, a sense of indebtedness overwhelms resentment and complaint. We may even reach the point at which we give thanks for our sorrows, our disappointments, our losses (II Cor. 12:9b).” (The Interpreter’s Bible, volume 4, p. 756)
Passage from Isaiah is another call to praise; God is praised for restoring Israel, bringing forth justice and praise to the earth. In 61:10-11, the prophet moves from praising God for his personal salvation to hope that one day salvation will be completed. In 62 he calls upon God to fulfill his promise of salvation to Jerusalem. Israel that once was called “forsaken” and “desolate” are now “my delight” and “espoused.”
Gospel- we hear story of Jesus early years, his presentation in the Temple, how he grew in wisdom and grace. In the temple was a righteous man, Simeon, who had been told he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. God’s spirit was strong in Simeon; the spirit guided Simeon to the Temple that day and revealed to him that this small baby was the one he had been waiting for. His response was one of praise and thanksgiving, thanking God for his salvation through the birth of the Messiah.
Paul tells us in Galatians, that in the fullness of time, Jesus came, no sooner, no later, at the right time when humans were ready. Simeon had spent his whole life waiting for this day. Now that it had happened, he was ready to go, his life had been fulfilled. All of our readings remind us of God’s salvation, God’s saving power and the ultimate expression of this in the birth of a baby, Jesus. It is precisely this which saves our memories, saves our lives and our world from waste. With God, no life is wasted, not the unborn, not lives lost in natural disasters. God knows us all by name, we are part of his creation, and God saves all of us. God restores our memories as well, all that is important to remember, all that God wants us to remember, they will all be restored if not in this life, then the next.
And so, as another new year begins, we are called to both let go of the past, and treasure our memories; we are called to let go of the “stuff” of life, material possessions, while not wasting for all of God’s creation is precious. We are called to both/and rather than either /or, to join with all creation in praising our God who saves us. Happy New Year!
Copyright 2011, Robertson