Promises for a New Year

January 4, 2015 (The Second Sunday of Christmas)


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.” (John 1:10-18, NRSV)


Let us pray: Gracious God, you have redeemed us through Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate as the child of Bethlehem. We thank you for the grace that we may live as your children and witness to your glory. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.


Here we are once again at the beginning of a new year. We are beginning 2015 and saying goodbye to 2014.

Normally at this time of the year only four days in to the New Year I am already upset because the best laid plans I have made to follow through on that New Year’s resolution are all for naught.  But not this year!  This year is different because I decided not to make any resolutions for 2015.  Well except for one; I am not making any.  I have promised myself that I will not live with the guilt of failing to keep it this year. Why put so much pressure on myself to be a better person, to lose weight, to get in shape?  No resolutions this year! Besides if I keep them then I think of myself as a great success and if I don’t then I think of myself as a huge failure. And there you have it is all about me!  If I think it is all about me then I am in for a rude awakening. After all it is not all about me or us!  At the beginning of the year or the end of the year or anytime in the year. It is so much bigger than that!


Our Gospel lesson for today sheds some light on who it is all really about and who is ultimately in charge. The Gospel of John begins like the other three gospels with an account of Jesus’ back ground. The Gospel of Mark introduces Jesus to us as an adult, telling us that Jesus was “a man from Nazareth.” The Gospels of Matthew and Luke begin with Jesus’ birth narratives and Jesus’ miraculous conception and virgin birth. But John, goes back even farther.  John goes back to the beginning of time itself.  Before anything else had been created, Jesus was. John is making a huge theological statement about Jesus stressing that Jesus/God was the creator of all that is, that is why John begins with the Word.


Words. Words. Words. Our lives are full of words. There are written words, there are spoken words.  We are bombarded daily by both written and spoken words.  Some of these words are good and helpful and others are not.  While I was watching the multitude of bowl games this past week there were the endless beer commercials, numerous credit and debt relief ads and the multitude of weight loss and make – your – life better claims that are forced on us.  Midway through the week I was numb from watching.  Words. Words. Words.


Some words mean more than others do…


This is the idea that John begins his Gospel and his daring claim that Jesus was “in the beginning” with God, that Jesus was “the Word of God” and “that all things came into being” through him.  John begins with God who is the Word.


John states that Jesus whom we know as our Savior was the Word God uttered when God said “Let there be light.”  Jesus was the Word that came down the mountain when God spoke to Moses.  Jesus was the word the prophets spoke when they said, “Thus says the Lord…”  Jesus was and is the Word. Words. Words. Words.  Some are more meaningful than others.


Jesus is not just a messenger from God; Jesus is the message.  Jesus does not simply teach us how to live; Jesus is life.  Jesus does not simply point to the Light; Jesus is the Light.  Words. Words. Words.[i]


The Bible, the Holy Word of God is full of wonderful and powerful words.  But even those life-changing words are not enough.  Take music for example, music is so much more than the notes on a page…when it is played with passion and emotion it can move us to tears and it can change our hearts and move our deepest emotions. Love is more than telling your spouse you love him or her; it is living it out each and every day of your marriage.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ, the magnificent Word of God is more than just words written in this Holy book.


The Word of God is not simply good words to live by and rules to guide our lives. It is God himself. The Word became flesh. The Word, which was in the beginning with God, the Word, which created all that is, the Word, which is light, and life, became flesh born of Mary in a manger in Bethlehem.


We in the church use Words each and every week to profess our faith. We say we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  We say the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.  We affirm our belief in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yes, that is what we say when we say it.  But are those just words for us?   Do we just say them because the bulletin says that is what comes next, do we say them because we have memorized the creed and it is rote to us, just rolls off our tongues each week? Words. Words. Words.[ii]


Do we really believe that God is the Savior of the world? Do we really believe that God is the Savior of our families, our children, our lives and our souls? Do we really believe that God is the savior of our loneliness, our broken hearts, our jobs, our financial situations, our faltering economy, our failing health?  Do we really believe that God can save our community, our nation, our world, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa or Israel, Palestine, hunger, homelessness, addiction and brokenness?  Or are they just words.   Do we know that is what you will say when you use those Words later in our service.   Do we really believe God will forgive all our sins and save us from the relentless guilt that is a part of all of our lives?  Do we really believe that God really can do all of that?  That is what it means to be a Savior. Words. Words. Words.  Do we mean what we say when we say them?[iii]


Because if we mean them they are far more than Words. They are an acknowledgment that life is about so much more than “me”. It is a confession that God really can heal and forgive and provide. It is a testament that God was present in the beginning, even before the beginning and God will be present beyond the end, bringing about new beginnings.


That is the promise of God in these Words that God who is the Word became flesh and blood and lived among us. Words. Words. Words. Sometimes words can give life, and hope and a fresh start… It is not all about us. It is about Jesus, the Word made flesh.


Today the first Sunday of a new year, 2015 and we embark on the next journey of life…will the Word become more than just Words, Words, Words, may the Word, Jesus, become flesh become flesh and live in your heart and mine now and forever.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

[i] The Reverend Dr. George Sinclair, Government Street Presbyterian Church, Mobile, AL.

[ii] The Reverend Dr. Craig Barnes, Shadyside Presbyterian Church, Pittsburg, PA

[iii] The Reverend Dr. Craig Barnes, Shadyside Presbyterian Church, Pittsburg, PA

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