Christmas and the New Year

This month marks the beginning of a new year. We have no way of knowing what will come our way. Will it bring showers of blessing or deep trials? As soon as you begin to ask these questions, what happens? I know what I do. I start to experience a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

  • How will things go with my marriage?
  • Will the economy remain strong?
  • What cataclysmic events will occur in our world this year?
  • Will my family and loved ones face good or bad health?

Over the Christmas season, the pastor of the church my family attends, preached a series of sermons on Isaiah 9. It is a very familiar passage to many. It was written nearly 700 years before the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah. At the time he is writing, God's people are in captivity and living in very oppressive circumstances. They are desperately in need of some good news.

Perhaps it would be good to reflect back on Advent as you begin the new year. Let's just look at Isaiah 9:1:

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

Isaiah is reminding his readers that God humbled his people through the trial of captivity because they had sought safety from other nations by entering into alliances with them. The problem was they also adopted their religious beliefs and practices and served their false gods. In this case, the trials were due to the people's sin of worshiping someone or something other than God.

What you are going through or may go through in the coming year may or may not be the direct result of your own sin. Often times, when going through a trial, it can be helpful to see if there is a correlation with personal disobedience, but often times there is none and to dwell on finding a link can be destructive. Remember Job's "counselors!"

Yet, even if it is the result of some form of disobedience, as it was for Israel,  notice the first word that Isaiah speaks in verse 1.

Nevertheless!

Do you see that? How many times have you heard this passage read and missed that one word? Nevertheless. Even if your suffering has been brought upon you because of some form of disobedience, God offers grace and forgiveness to the humble and repentant.

One thing is certain this year. You will struggle with temptation and the ongoing battle with sin in your life. Even though you may be a Christian, the fact of remaining sin is a reminder that the battle is not over. You will stumble and fall.

Nevertheless!

Isaiah continues by saying that something is going to happen that will bring light. Strangely, he mentions to two tribes in the North; Zebulon and Naphtali. Then he mentions Galilee. It is a reference to where this light will come. The Messiah, your faithful saviour, will bring light to the humble and this will emerge from the the place of darkness where no one would ever have predicted. The Savior will emerge out of a place of obscurity and darkness.

As you face the new year and do battle with temptation and sin, remember,

Nevertheless!

Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.