This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Happy New Year!
Thankfully, the calendar gives us opportunities for new starts. Each morning when we wake up, we start a new day. We have new weeks, new months and new seasons. This is a good thing, because in our continual state of sinfulness and struggle, we are continually in need of “starting over” points. Today is one such point—it is the beginning of a new year. This comes only once every 365 (and this year 366 days). This is probably the most notable day for new starts. People make tons of resolutions most of which they not only do not keep, but probably don’t even remember. Many people make good intentioned changes to diet, try to correct bad habits, and even these generally fade with time.
I read a book several years ago called “My One Word” by Michael Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen. The premise of this book is to encourage us, instead of making a long list of New Year’s Resolutions, to choose one word and let that one word define the year. People can’t remember resolutions, but we can all remember one word. I’ve used the “one word” concept not only to guide my year for the past several years, but we’ve chosen one word for our community, and we’ve encouraged ministries to choose one word to define their year. People can use one word to define a relationship, or use one word to guide their family. Because one word is easy to remember. I’ve used words like “health”, “today,” and “manage” as my personal words. Our community has used words like “serve,” “time” and “renew” as our community words. I encourage you to choose one word and let it define your year. I encourage you to come up with a word for your family, or your marriage, or with your children, with ministries at church, with organizations, with your workplace—there are lots of possibilities. We make a huge “wordle” poster at our church, putting the community word in the center and the words of each parishioner around it and display it in the hall each year.
Along with this idea of starting over and utilizing one word, allow me to humbly suggest one phrase, to use this year. And that would be today’s verse from Psalm 118:24: This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Or perhaps you could change one word in it to make it more personal: This is the day which the Lord has made; I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.
Let’s unpack this verse for a minute. It has three specific things to touch on. First, there is the word “day.” As I get older, I find that it is easier to look at life and deal with it’s challenges if I focus on today. This is not the year that the Lord has made, or the lifetime. Rather it is the day that the Lord has made, so I will focus on today. Jesus says in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not a guarantee, which leaves TODAY as the unit of life to be concerned about.
The second thing to touch on is the word “Lord.” This is the day that the LORD has made. If we focus on the word “Lord,” we will remember that just waking up to this day is a blessing. This day is also a day to honor the Lord. Many people think about the Lord only on Sundays. He doesn’t enter into their everyday thoughts. Remembering this verse on a daily basis will help us remember the Lord each day.
The third thing that is highlighted in this verse is that we are to “rejoice and be glad” in this day that was made by the Lord. Rejoicing is a choice. Someone asked me recently why the Greek Orthodox always have “Koufeta” (Jordan almonds) present at major life events, like baptisms, weddings and funerals. The reason is that the sugar-covered almond is bittersweet and it reminds us of the bittersweetness of life. Even the sweetest of things have their bitter moments, and even the most bitter of things can have some sweetness. We have bitter sorrow when someone passes away, but there are still sweet memories of that person. We can choose to rejoice even in the midst of sorrow, because of the sweet memories that we have. If we are supposed to find a way to feel some joy even in the midst of sorrow, and if most days don’t have the heaviness of sorrow, then we are supposed to find a way to rejoice each day.
If you are looking for a verse to make as a mantra for 2024, may I suggest saying Psalm 118:24 each day. It affirms focus on today, it affirms that today is a blessing from God because He made the day, and it affirms a desire to choose to rejoice even on difficult days because every day can be a blessing since it was given to us by God. As you get out of bed each morning, make the sign of the cross and make this sentence part of your prayer, as your feet hit the floor: This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. Happy New Year Prayer Team! May the Lord bless each and everyone of you with health and with joy this year, but may He also give us focus on today, gratitude for the day He has given us, and strength to find a reason to rejoice each day.
Christ is born; glorify Him! Christ is come from heaven; go and meet Him. Christ is on earth; arise to Him. Sing to the Lord, all you who dwell on the earth; and in merry spirits, O you peoples, praise His birth. For He is glorified. (Katavasias of Christmas, ode one, appears in Orthros from November 21-December 25, and on December 31, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Personal Reflection Point: Say this verse out loud. How does it lift your mood?