Happy Joy-full New Year.
Let Jesus carry the burden.
I was tired of watching what was on TV, random musical artists I didn’t recognize, barely dressed, singing crude bits of racket they called songs; news anchors and comedians saying crude jokes and acting like children, getting drunk in bars and watching as they let someone pierce their ear with a pin (true story, Don Lemon).
“This is a terrible way to start a new year,” I said to my friend as we counted down as the ball dropped. Drunkenness. Crudeness. Debauchery. Political hatred for half of the country. Hey, devil, let’s dedicate the year to you right from the start.
Last year I started a new tradition for New Year’s Eve.
Pulling together videos and photos from the year, I created a 12-minute video that summed up what had happened in the world, but contrasted that with what had happened in our own lives, celebrating the latter and thanking God. There was a countdown (which meant you had to time the start of the video just right), and after the countdown, a prayer.
There were photos of family, of both fun and tender moments. It’s important, I think, to end the year remembering the time God had given us and what we did with it, celebrating how gracious he was in giving us people to love. 2022 was a hard year for most of us, and it would be easy to just be glad it’s over instead of remember all we had to be thankful for. It felt particularly joyless, for some reason, and most days were difficult to make it through.
But even more important than that, I think, was what came after the countdown.
I want the first moments of the new year to start with prayer, and so, using photos from the year as well, while Rend Collective’s song “For All That You Have Done” (to the tune of Auld Lang Syne) played, this was the prayer:
Thank you, Jesus, for the time you’ve given to us this past year.
For keeping us on your path,
and helping us cross troubled waters.
We know that we never walk alone.
Thank you for our victories,
even when life seems like it’s falling apart.
We know you’re there on the mountaintops,
but also in the valleys with all of their shadows.
We take comfort knowing your eye is on the sparrow,
and that you care about all of us, your creation,
no matter how unimportant we might seem to others.
When there is death,
we can know we have eternal life because of you.
Thank you for providing our daily bread.
and giving us living water in a parched world.
You gave us beauty for ashes,
and joy instead of mourning.
When things are unclear, you help us find our way.
When things are dark, you are the light.
With you, there is always hope. (Help us to remember!)
The sun has set on another year.
Please watch over our loved ones, whatever seasons of life they’re in,
and bring them safely home to you.
I don’t do resolutions; I can only change so many habits at a time, and I prefer to start at random meaningless days throughout the year so that there’s not the pressure to be perfect from day one. I do try to think of some things I could change in the coming year without the works-heavy language of “resolve” involved, though.
But while I don’t do resolutions, I do do prayer. How strange to start the year resolving in my own power instead of kneeling to the Lord.
I want more joy this year, I wrote in my journal. I don’t want to feel so driven. Please help, Jesus.
Driven by client work and fixation on income, by the every ding of my phone, driven to be in control and organized and functioning on high.
I don’t know. Just the sense of being driven, always behind the curve, always gasping and trying to keep up, one more thing on the horizon, one more shoe to drop, no sabbath, no moment to catch my breath.
When Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden light, I have to think what a not-Jesus yoke would be. It would be hard and heavy, pulling a significant burden. If Jesus’ burden is light, clearly we aren’t carrying much. Jesus isn’t cracking a whip and driving us always onward, always towards weariness of spirit and mind. I suspect that the feeling of being driven means I’ve taken on other’s yokes.
In church today, as the pastor preached from Matthew 12:1-8, he made a comment that struck me.
“Following Jesus is never meant to be a burden,” he said, noting that it becomes one when other believers point out what we’re doing wrong.
It also becomes one when I think I have to pull and listen to a whip, I thought. Being driven is about works.
I don’t want a driven life. I don’t want a purpose-driven life, to be driven to succeed, to be driven. I want joy in Jesus. Pure, simple, ridiculously burden-free grace-celebrating joy where the yokes of others don’t find a home to rest, where my purpose is God-ordained and God-fulfilled.
I can’t make that happen on my own; I need Jesus to help (especially because 2023 looks to be even more chaotic).
At the end of this year’s video, I included Philippians 1:6: He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
As I created that slide, it felt compelled to bold some of the words.
He will carry it.
Jesus, I want joy this year, real joy. Not heavy yokes and burdens and hopelessness from the failure to carry the burden myself. You take those. I just want your joy.