INVOCATION and READING
Christ brings fresh light to the world,
may our reflection help us carry this light into the new year.
Psalm 90 (A prayer of Moses the man of God)
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
4 A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
17 May the favor[a] of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.
May God bless our reading and understanding of this prayer, Psalm 90.
Well, there is no mincing of words in the message of Psalm 90. Our lives and works are fleeting when compared to the everlasting greatness of God. This prayer, attributed to Moses, acknowledges the brevity and sinful nature of life along with the swiftness of God’s power and judgment. He asks for God’s love and compassion that, as we live and work in His service, we may know the joy of God’s grace now and forever. In this same light, even the troubles of our day are short-lived in the timeless nature of God, for God reigns eternal.
The hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” (UMH #117) was written ca. 1708 by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), and first published in 1719 as a paraphrase of Psalm 90. Most hymnals today include 6 of the original 9 stanzas. An interesting side-note is that John Wesley changed the original first line “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” to “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” in his 1738 hymnal to assure the belief that God’s grace was open to all, not just a select few.
Often used as an All Saints Day hymn, I have always thought of it first as a great hymn for the New Year. No doubt, the references to time and God’s help through the years lend to that impression. But looking more deeply, I see a connection between the rekindling of the Advent light in our hearts and the return of God’s grace to our finite lives here on earth.
If we are to take the light of Christ into the world, it makes sense to remember our place in God’s sight as the guiding force in our efforts. And hopefully, being grounded in this knowledge gives us the hope, spark, and courage to live and work decisively for God’s kingdom here on earth.
The familiar tune most associated with this hymn is ST. ANNE, attributed ca. 1708 to William Croft (1678-1727). May we find hope, assurance, and inspiration as we listen:
O God of steadfast love , trusting you, we devote our hearts to learning and our lives to walking.
Teach us truth, that we may walk with courage.
Teach us mercy, that we may walk with humility.
Teach us forgiveness, that we may walk with compassion.
Teach us grace, that we may walk with strength.
Teach us wonder, that we may walk with praise.
Teach us goodness, that we may walk with those in need.
O God of steadfast love, learning from you, may we walk well.
Amen. – J. Bradley Wigger
Offered by Joche Wilmot, Director of Music Ministries