Well, let’s just pause a moment and take a deep breath. We have reached the end of another Advent and Christmas season. I hope it was as meaningful for you as it was for me. We stand here, at the end of the Christmas season, and at the end of one year, ready to begin a whole, brand-new year. The gifts have all been given, and the food has all been eaten (probably.) This is the last Sunday, we will have all of the Christmas decorations up in the sanctuary – maybe you have already taken your decorations down at home. Or maybe you like to leave them up for a while. That’s okay, too.
For all of us, this is a time of new beginnings as we begin 2019. What are you looking forward to in the New Year? Better health? Renewed friendships? A closer relationship to God?
In our scripture from John 1 today, we read: “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.” Our real beginning has always been found in Christ. All throughout Scripture, we see Christ involved in creating new beginnings. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reinforces this truth, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Many of the people who encountered Jesus were trapped in seemingly impossible situations: The man blind from birth, the woman with the constant bleeding, the demon-filled man who was only allowed to live among the dead, the woman accused of adultery, the sick, the hungry, the lost, even Jesus’ own disciples – all were given new hope through his healing, his care, his teaching. He wiped away sins and sicknesses and offered fresh starts instead. Couldn’t most of us use a fresh start, too? A new beginning in one area of our life or another? Look to Christ.
Looking over the year that has just passed. How have things been for you? Typically, we could all say we experienced some highs and some lows. We all have things we wish we could do over, or maybe not do at all (if you know what I mean). Well, here is some good news – Christ still delights in giving us new beginnings. But we have to let go of those old burdens, we have to be ready to move on from the mistakes we made in the past year. When we are ready we can ask for Christ to make a new beginning in us! Isn’t it time to allow God to heal those old wounds? Isn’t it time to give ourselves into his competent hands? We can ask him to begin a new work in us.
Another part of our Scripture from John 1, describes Christ as our light: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” If you were here on Christmas Eve, I hope you remember the candlelighting at the end of the service. We turned out all of the lights, and contemplated the darkness that surrounded us. We remarked on how difficult it was to make out the features and details of even those seated near us. We were reminded that there is a lot of darkness in our world today. But then, but then, we remembered the incredible majesty and holiness contained within Christ our Messiah, the light of the world. And we were reminded that often that light is passed on through us! And as we watched one single candle lit from the Christ candle, passed from one to one to one – a single flame at a time – the entire sanctuary became ablaze in the beautiful light from the Christ candle. Friends, the light of Christ still shines in the world and in us. There is darkness in our world, but the best way to overcome darkness is with light and the light is within you. “To all who receive him, he gives power to become children of God,” children of light.
So friends, let’s enter the New Year as children of light. Leave behind old burdens, let the old pass away, let go of it and place it in God’s competent hands. Claim the promise that in Christ we are new, created for new things, certain that our beginning and our ending is in Christ, and let the light of Christ blaze brightly through you! (Joy to the World)
(Parts of this message are based on the book, “Devotions for Christmas” by Zondervan Publishing, 2016)