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Synopsis of New Beginnings
Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and Hew as God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 He created everything there is. Nothing exists that He didn’t make. 4 Life itself was in Him, and this life gives light to everyone. 5 The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6 God sent John the Baptist 7 to tell everyone about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John Himself was not the light; He was only a witness to the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world. 10 But although the world was made through Him, the world didn’t recognize Him when He came. 11 Even in his own land and among his own people, He was not accepted. 12 But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan – this rebirth comes from God.
I trust you’ve made your New Year’s resolutions one of which is to be in worship each week. Well done for this second Sunday. I won’t ask you if you’ve resolved to lose the weight you gained between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or if you’re planning on joining a health club, or if you’re going to run five miles a day. Five miles, by the way, is my total aggregate of a lifetime of running.
The late Erma Bombeck made some memorable resolutions over the years: 1. I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died. 2. I’m going to follow my husband’s suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget. 3. I’m going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers. 4. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to.
Joke writer Ed McManus has some words of comfort for those of us who are setting resolutions: “Don’t worry about [keeping] those 2013 News Year’s resolutions. He says. You only have to deal with them until February and then you can give them up for Lent.” It sounds like He has been spying on some of us.
Resolutions are good, especially if there are changes we need to make in our lives. I heard about one poor guy who dialed his girlfriend and got the following recording: “I am not available right now, but thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes.”
When I pastored I had a service where those celebrating New Year’s Eve can come for a moment of sober reflection. Put the emphasis on “sober” reflection. Those who came wrote their regrets on a scrap of paper, then they set a match to them and turn them to ashes in a canister. Literally, their regrets go up in smoke. At least, that was the general idea. That was very therapeutic for some of us as we began a new year. But then we have to put our attention to our text for today from the prologue to the Gospel of John to put the emphasis not on our past, but on our future. Not on our regrets, but on our possibilities. Let me re-read just a few selected verses from this magnificent passage:
“ Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
What a positive theme for this New Year! Focusing not on what we have been, or even what we are now. Rather it focuses on what we can yet be: “He gave the right to become children of God . . .”
Isn’t that what you really want as you begin this New Year to know deep in your heart that you can be more than you are today that you have a right to become a child of God? Isn’t that what you really want, that you can live the next 365 days confidently aware that your life matters to know that God is with you and that you can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens you?
All of us have unrealized potential. That’s the first thing these words say to me. We are children of the dust who have the potential to be children of the Divine. When each of us came into this world, we brought with us an amazing amount of potential.
Someone tells of seeing a young man pedaling around a college campus on a bicycle. He was wearing a T-shirt. On the T-shirt it said, “I’m going to be a doctor.” If you like that…. there was also a sign on the back of his bicycle. It proclaimed: “I’m going to be a Mercedes.” There was a young man who understood his potential.
Given the proper environment, the human creature is capable of acquiring an amazing amount of information and skills in a short time. It is truly sad that so much of this potential is neglected.You and I came into this world having enormous mental and physical potential, much of which is never realized. There is something more our text is saying to us, however. We also have enormous untapped spiritual potential. Now this is a concept that many of us will not quite grasp, but it is so vitally important.
Notice, the text doesn’t say that Christ came into the world so that we can improve our I.Q. or that we will be able to run the 440 in record time. It says that whoever receives Christ and believes on his name has the potential to become a child of God. What does that mean? It means that you and I have the potential to be like Christ. We have a potential within our hearts and souls for peace, a potential for joy, a potential for hope, a potential for love, a potential for forgiveness that is greater than we can possibly imagine.
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