As we begin this New Year, we also begin our walk through the Psalms at the beginning – Psalm 1.  The Psalms became a handbook for those who would live their life under God.  Many wanted to be loyal to God’s Word and have faith in God’s promises, but the events of history often put this effort to severe tests.  People of God often seemed to suffer difficult times, while the godless seemed to prosper.  This Psalmist knows all too well that the facts of history and of individual experience often tended to undermine the expectations of the faithful.  If I follow God, if I believe in God, shouldn’t my life go better than it sometimes seems to go?  Why do those who don’t believe seem to have it better off than me?

To all of these questions and feelings, the Psalmist speaks words of reassurance.  It will not always be that way; you just have to hang in there and keep doing what you know God wants you to do.  Things will work themselves out the way God wants them to be, ‘for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked will perish’.  Maybe you can’t see that now, but trust that God will make things right.

Maybe the point is not to get caught up in comparing ourselves to those around us or even to think that because we go to church, because we believe, that somehow life, even God, ought to treat us better than it does.  Maybe our focus simply needs to be on following God and trusting God’s promise.  Maybe our ‘happiness’ – or to literally translate the first word: ‘Oh, the happiness of…’ – is to be found in trying to live our life by listening to God, is in taking delight in the teachings of God and thinking about what God is up to day and night.  Maybe by praying, coming to church, reading scripture, we become like trees planted by streams of water, yielding fruit as we should, because we are focusing not on how we compare to those around us, not on what we think our life should be like because we follow God, but simply and powerfully and faithfully focusing on God and God’s promise.

As you enter this New Year, I pray you can keep your focus there.  In your Baptism, God has planted you by the waters of grace.  There you will prosper because there God will love you and keep you and watch over you today, tomorrow and forever.

Let us pray:  Eternal God, in your loving wisdom you set us beside the fountain of life, like a tree planted by running streams.  Fill us with delight in your teaching, that we may bear fruit in every season of life; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.