Rev. Drew Stockstill
Do You Like Beginnings?
January 2, 2022 Rev. Dr. Darlis Swan
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, 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. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 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.
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. (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.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 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.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I want to wish you all a very happy new year! I hope that each day in 2022 will be filled with peace and joy for you. I like begiinnings. “In the beginning…”. Those words are filled with memory and promise. There is something exciting about opening those first pages of a book (whether it is electronic or print) or seeing the first scenes on the movie screen. When it comes to calendars for the next year, the beginning is the best. The old is gone, and the new has come. While many of us keep our calendars on some electronic device, I still like to have a book that reminds me when Christmas ends and Epiphany starts, for example. They tell me when Lent begins and which sSunday we celebrate Easter this year. I put the last year’s aside, and open up those new pages. I think about the possibilities those pages offer. My 2022 planner includes a brief bible verse on each page, and the cover reads “I am with you always.” Matthew 28:20.
Some of you may be surprised that we are still singing Christmas carols today. I know that many of you have removed the ornaments from your tree and put them in the closet and taken your tree down. The packages have been opened, and the gifts put away. It seems that Christmas is fading. But in the church, we are still reflecting on what it means that Jesus came into our lives one day – so many centuries ago. Today’s gospel lesson from John is another story of the nativity. But we did not hear about Mary and Joseph and the babe in a manger. There are no angels and shepherds. John’s gospel tells the Christmas story in a different way.
The gospel begins with these words – “In the beginning was the word…” what this is telling us is that Jesus has always been with us – even before there was a Bethlehem of Judea and a manger and a birth – Jesus was present because he is the living word of god. In a way the scriptures are saying that Jesus has always existed.
This gospel tells us that Jesus was god. Jesus was with God and the Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity. Jesus came to earth in the form of a human being – a baby born in a stable (the most humble birth). Jesus suffered as we do and experienced hunger and thirst. “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.” He was a teacher and prophet, but the world did not recognize him to be the son of god.
One of my favorite family memories is the time my parents and my brother and I took a trip across the United States. We went to California and visited Disney World. One evening about dusk we were walking toward one of the rides, and my mother spotted a gentleman coming out of what appeared to be a secret door. She said, “I think that’s Walt Disney.” We laughed, but my dad approached him, saying, “Mr. Disney?” He turned around, and acknowledged that’s who he was. He welcomed us and offered to take us on a special tour of Disney World – we accepted with excitement. We spent the whole evening with the creator of this magical world – who went unrecognized by anyone.
Now let’s go back to the time when Jesus lived. People were oblivious to Jesus in that first century world. God’s own people didn’t seem to know who he was. They saw him heal and perform miracles. They thought he was wiser than most people, but most did not see him as the son of god. There were some who did, and those people knew he was the savior of the world. They knew that he came into a world of darkness to bring life and light. Jesus promised new beginnings to his followers and those who believed. He came to bring peace on earth!!
Many of you are starting something new as 2022 unfolds. Some of you may be starting school in a virtual way, a new job, or retirement. Others may be facing difficult beginnings. Some of you may be starting the new year as one who is leaving a place or job without certainty of what’s next in your life. Some of you may be starting the new year facing a life-threatening illness or family problems you feel helpless to resolve. Others may be starting this year as a single person – because of death or divorce in the past year. Some may feel little hope, but Jesus came into the world for us – as God’s expression of the greatest love possible. So, Jesus will be with each of us every day of this new year – we will never be alone. Peace on Earth by Jaques Lipchitz
As we look back on this year that is past, we may be remembering past failures, but Jesus forgives all those failures that may haunt us and wipes the slate clean. Jesus promises to make all things new – to give us a second chance. He offers “grace upon grace” and blessings beyond our imagination. Last year I found myself saying, “Lord have mercy!”, in spoken prayers as well as conversations. I believe as we ask for “mercy, mercy, mercy”, God will grant it to us.
Jesus brings light into a darkened world. He promises those of us who believe that his light will overcome the pain and suffering of the world. Even in the turmoil of war and strife where he may not be recognized as a saviour, Jesus offers hope – a way to begin again. He wants all God’s people to live in peace.
You may be ending this year with memories of promises broken or dreams shattered, but Jesus promises new life for you! As we proclaim Christ in the word preached and receive his body and blood in the sacrament of holy communion, Jesus promises that he will make all things new! Jesus wants to love all of us into the family of God. That’s his mission!
We have heard promises made to us through the scriptures, and we have been reminded each time that Jesus gives the power to become the children of god to those who believe. We have heard promises made to the newly baptized, and we have confessed our sins and received God’s forgiveness and mercy.Jesus promises to erase our sins and give us a new beginning. According to John’s gospel, all we need to do is reach out and receive those promises.
I would like to return to my 2022 calendar – my planner book. When I begin to write in my appointments and meetings for this year, I put the old calendar away. The record of those events – good and bad – is put away – gone forever. And that’s what God does for us. God gives us a chance to put away the old – to have a new beginning – to start over. “if anyone is in Christ, the old is gone; the new is come.”
According to John, all this comes to us as a gift. All we have to do is to receive it. We are being offered a new beginning from a loving god. Peace came down to earth that night in bethlehem centuries ago. And – peace will come again. Amen.