“Now greet the swiftly changing year with joy and penitence sincere; rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.”

We sang the Lutheran hymn “Now Greet the Swiftly Changing Year” this morning.  According to hymnary.org, the lyrics are a translation of a 17th-century Slovak hymn.  Way to ring in the New Year Lutheran Slovaks!  

There’s a lot to love in this song.  The balance between joy and penitence is a nice surprise.  The call to “rejoice, rejoice” is repeated three times in the hymn.  This optimistic start to the new year is possible because of God’s grace.  After each call to rejoice, the sincere penitent is reminded that the year ahead will be full of the power of grace.  Thankfully embrace this gift of grace, the penitent is encouraged.  The hymn expresses confident trust that this divine power will be available for yet another year.

“Christ’s love abundant far exceeds the volume of a whole year’s needs; rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.”

Take that New Year’s resolutions!  Yes, we are very mindful the things we feel we need to change about ourselves.  And yes, we are also mindful of all the previous resolutions that we have failed to keep.  Why should this year be any different?  Because of Christ’s love, which the hymn envisions as a super abundant power.  We consider the year to come and feel overwhelmed by its challenges.  In contrast to our pessimism, the hymn expresses confident hope that the power of Christ’s love is more than enough to overcome these challenges.

“With such a God to lead our way in hazard and prosperity, what need we fear in earth or space in this new year of grace?”

Please note that this hymn does not promise that God will make all Christian prosperous in the new year.  The new year is anticipated to be a mix of positive and negative experiences.  We will need God to direct our path through the hazardous times.  We will need God to lead us through the dilemmas posed by affluence.  The hymn expresses confident assurance that, come what may, God will be our guide all year long.

“All glory be to God on high and peace of earth,” the angels cry; rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.”

The hymn closes with the repeated refrain to rejoice and thankfully embrace the future because what awaits us is another year of living into God’s grace.  What awaits us is peace on earth.  I certainly feel more at peace after meditating on the message of this hymn.  It reminds me that my resolution for the new year needs an opening clause.  “Thanks to the peace-making power of God’s grace and the super abundance of Christ’s love, I will not take my anxiety out on others.”