You crown the year with your bounty.Psalm 65:11
As I continue my “Poems, Prayers, Psalms, and Promises” series into this new year, I am sharing the last of the poems written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and published posthumously in his “Letters and Papers from Prison.” To me, this is one of the most poignant of his poems, particularly because of the circumstances in which it is written. From a prison cell as he prepared to welcome another new year – his last on this earth, as it would turn out – towards the end of a terrible war, and anticipating a trial for his part in a plot to overthrow Adolph Hitler. In the midst of all of this, Bonhoeffer is still able to share his belief that he is surrounded “by faithful, quiet powers of good.” And so, even in that terrible situation, he can still share his simple prayer “to live these days with you in spirit and with you enter into a new year.” May it be for us all.
Here, then, is my poem, prayer, psalm and promise for a new year.
Praise is due to you,
O God, in Zion.
You make the gateways of the morning and the evening
shout for joy.
You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Devotional Poem: By Powers of Good by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
By faithful, quiet powers of good surrounded
so wondrously consoled and sheltered here—
I wish to live these days with you in spirit
and with you enter into a new year.
The old year still would try our hearts to torment,
of evil times we still do bear the weight;
O Lord, do grant our souls, now terror-stricken,
salvation for which you did us create.
And should you offer us the cup of suffering,
though heavy, brimming full and bitter brand,
we'll thankfully accept it, never flinching,
from your good heart and your beloved hand.
But should you wish now once again to give us
the joys of this world and its glorious sun,
then we'll recall anew what past times brought us
and then our life belongs to you alone.
The candles you have brought into our darkness,
let them today be burning warm and bright,
and if it's possible, do reunite us!
We know your light is shining through the night.
When now the quiet deepens all around us,
O, let our ears that fullest sound amaze
of this, your world, invisibly expanding
as all your children sing high hymns of praise.
By powers of good so wondrously protected,
we wait with confidence, befall what may.
God is with us at night and in the morning
and oh, most certainly on each new day.
Closing Prayer (New Year’s Eve Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship)
Eternal God, you have placed us in a world of space and time, and through the events of our lives you bless us with your love. Grant that in the new year we may know your presence, see your love at work, and live in the light of the event that gives us joy forever – the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
This poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer can be found in the Reader’s Edition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Letters and Papers from Prison,” published by Fortress Press.