The Second Sundy of Christmas; Year C (1/3/2010)
Resolute in the New Year
Lessons: Jeremiah 31:7-14 or Sirach 24:1-12 Psalm 147:12-20 or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21 Ephesians 1:3-14 St. John 1: [1-9] 10-18
Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
[1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.] 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart,who has made him known.
St. John 1: [1-9] 10-18 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Many of us celebrate the New Year with "New Year's Resolutions" – yet few of them seem to last very long. Year after year, we end up with a check-list that never quite gets completed, but still we make our resolutions, don’t we? Perhaps it is the thought of starting over, and the hope that the next year will bring a richer, more meaningful experience of life than did the previous one, that fuels our New Year's celebrations.
That's why January is always a good time to read the first chapter of St. John's Gospel. John’s account of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus begins in this way:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him... [St. John 1:1-3a]
John reminds us of that very first beginning, and then tells us that in Jesus, The Word Made Flesh, God decided to begin again. If we read the Bible from the perspective of St. John's Gospel, we begin to realize that God is indeed a God of new Beginnings. In the book of Genesis, God begins anew with all of creation. In the book of Exodus, God begins anew with the people Israel, leading them out of their slavery in Egypt and into the promised land. In the books of Kings and Chronicles, God begins anew with Kings Saul and David and Solomon, as Israel becomes a mighty nation. In the prophets, God begins anew by calling a sinful people back to faith, and promising to guard and keep them if they obey once again. And in the New Testament, God begins anew by forgiving and renewing all who believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ.
St. John makes this last new beginning a central purpose of his book, and tells us so in this morning's lesson:
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. [St. John 1:12-13]
John has recorded the story of our Lord's life so that his readers might come to believe that Jesus is the Christ. His purpose is not to entertain them, or arouse their curiosity about a man who lived years ago. His purpose is to help them receive Christ in faith; and give them the power to become the children of God. John wishes for them to have, in effect, a new beginning with God: receiving the gift of forgiveness and the hope of eternal life, and living as disciples of the One who loved us enough to give life itself for them.
That’s what it is all about, of course: experiencing God’s gift of forgiveness, and then allowing the rest of our lives to become a response to that gift. At the beginning of this New Year we celebrate the new beginning we all experience in the waters of our baptism. At the beginning of this New Year, as our friends and neighbors resolve to live in new and better ways, we resolve to live more intentionally as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
At Saint Peter, we encourage everybody to be growing as disciples of Jesus Christ. We do so, confident that as we become more and more a people who value Bible study, prayer, worship, service to the community, and financial generosity, we will grow closer to God, and live with a greater confidence in the promises God has given us.
There are so many ways that God makes new beginnings in our lives. And there are so many opportunities for us to respond to this grace of God. Every moment of every day offers each of us an opportunity to be faithful to God. May the beginning of this New Year be a new beginning in your life. And as you consider the role God is asking you to play in your world, may your faithfulness increase, may the light of Christ be known through your words and deeds, and from its fullness, may we all receive grace upon grace.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What similarities are there between the new beginning described in Genesis 1 and the new beginning described in St. John 1?
- What other new beginnings did God make, in the stories we read from Scriptures?
- How does the Gospel of St. John describe anew beginning more profound than any others described in the Scriptures?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When did my faith begin to play a significant role in my life?
- How is the image of baptism a reminder of God's desire to give me a new and right spirit?
- What new beginning is God currently making in me?