Have you gotten used to saying or writing “2021” yet? It’s still sinking in somewhat for me that we’re actually in a new year!

            As we journey through this new year together as God’s people at St. Matthew, I’d like to share a simple theme to focus on with you: Experiencing Renewal in Jesus.” Renewal is a rich Biblical message. I believe it captures some of our hopes for 2021 – Lord willing, the year that we begin to put the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects behind us. But bigger than that, “renewal” captures the hope that is ours in Jesus. 

            Through Holy Baptism, Jesus has worked regeneration and renewal for our once lost souls (Titus 3:5). We’ll be focusing on that renewal on January 10th and 13th at St. Matthew as we remember Jesus’ Baptism and the significance of Christian Baptism for us all. 

            The Lord renews us as well whenever we confess our sins to Him and receive His forgiveness. In Psalm 51, King David confesses his sins to God and gives thanks for God’s cleansing forgiveness. He also prays that God will change him from the inside-out as he goes forward: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

            The Lord renews us in still other ways: granting us new strength (see Isaiah 40:30-31), new minds to discern His good will for our lives (see Romans 12:1-2), and new identities in Christ, realigned with the Image of God (see Colossians 3:10). 

            Certainly, there are many things in daily life we hope to see renewed at some point this year as well – hugs and handshakes and physical connection in place of social distancing; seeing one another’s smiles instead of our masked faces.

            We look forward to seeing events and traditions renewed as well, including community events like the Tractor Pull and Cran Fest, and church occasions such as Vacation Bible School and potluck meals. 

            Where do you need the Lord’s renewing work in your life of faith? Each of us needs His renewing presence for forgiveness, hope, strength, setting a more Christ-like example, and much more. I encourage you to pray for Christ to renew you according to your particular needs. While you’re at it, pray for His renewal throughout the life of our congregation, community, and country! Remember also that receiving Christ’s gifts through public worship and the study of His Word are specific ways He promises to bring renewal to His people. 

            In closing, I’ll share a portion of the New Year’s hymn, “Help Us, O Lord, for Now We Enter”, a prayer for Christ’s renewal in our lives as we go forward into 2021:


Help us, O Lord, for now we enter upon another year today.

In You our hopes and thoughts now center; renew our courage for the way.

New life, new strength, new happiness, we ask of You – oh, hear and bless.


May every plan and undertaking begin this year, O Lord, with You.

When I am sleeping or am waking, help me, dear Lord, Your will to do.

In You alone, my God, I live; You only can my sins forgive.

Blessed New Year,

            Pastor Kory Janneke