I don’t know if there has ever been a time when people were as ready to end one year and begin another. 2020 has been a bust in too many ways to count. 2021 brings the hope of the pandemic coming to an end and life getting back to some sort of normal. Many of us are all too ready to resume daily schedules and longer-term plans that were put on hold over the past year. Before we get too far into declaring victory and moving on with our plans, however, there is an important question that we must ask: What role will God play in my life in 2021?
Let me give you some background on my question: It is important for us to remember that knowing Jesus is not a one-time decision we make, but something that takes work and intentionality on our part throughout the duration of the relationship – much like a relationship between two people! Looking through both the Old and the New Testaments, we can see examples of God’s people taking time to recommit themselves to him during key moments. In the Old Testament, God renews his covenant with the Israelites after they have been wandering in the desert for 40 years before they go into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 29). In the New Testament, Jesus foretells his death with a meal and then tells them to continue celebrating that meal regularly as a way of remembering and celebrating the new covenant he has made (Communion). These points of recommitting are an important part of how God’s people keep from growing complacent and involve God in their plans for the future.
At the beginning of this year, I was reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 12:1, which read:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
This verse reminds me that each and every day is a good day to recommit ourselves to Christ. Thankfully, God does not call every Christian to be sacrificed as a martyr. But God does call every Christian to sacrifice the notion of living for themselves. Instead, we get to live first and foremost for Christ, and we do this by offering ourselves to God so that God can do what he wants with our lives (see Galatians 2:20 also). Again, this is not just a one-time decision we make when we begin to follow Jesus, but something we must recommit to many times along the way.
The new year can be a great time for us to pause to reflect on our own lives and invite God to come into the next season. People do this in a variety of ways. At Bethany we have traditionally started the year with a special worship time focused on remembering the covenant we entered when we were baptized. John Wesley and the early Methodists would sometimes hold a Watchnight Service, an all-night worship and prayer time to usher in the new year and recommit themselves to God. Personally, I enjoy taking some extended time in December or January for reflection on the past year and praying into the new year so that God is an essential part of any plans I make.
There are numerous ways one could involve God in the new year. How you decide to do that is up to you. I simply want to encourage you to not miss the opportunity. God wants more for us this year than just getting our busy schedule back. He wants to continue growing in our lives and blessing us in ways we have not yet imagined. Below is a Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition that you can use to help pray into the new year. The traditional version of this is found in the United Methodist Hymnal (#604). This contemporary version was borrowed from the Church of the Resurrection. I hope and pray that we can all involve God in this next season by taking a moment to recommit ourselves to God as we begin this new year.
A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition (Contemporary Version)
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service.
And now, O wonderful and holy God,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it also be made in heaven. Amen.