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Sermon for January 2, 2022 (Second Sunday after Christmas)

Speaking Of Life 4006 | Already a Good New Year

A new year is approaching! This means new beginnings, new journeys, and new resolutions. The New Year is often an opportunity to improve ourselves or expand what we have. But While this can be a healthy practice, it is also beneficial to reflect on the blessings that we already have. This New Year, let us open our hearts and ears and receive what God has already given us. Let us experience his grace and love through the light of his son, Jesus Christ.

Program Transcript


Speaking Of Life 4006 | Already a Good New Year
Cara Garrity

This week, we are blessed to celebrate the coming of another year with fireworks, parties, and cheers of “goodbye” to 2021 and “hello” to 2022. At the start of a new year, many people use the opportunity to take stock in their lives. They make resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, save money, and stop procrastinating. There is nothing inherently wrong with making a New Year’s resolution, however, have you ever noticed that resolutions are often focused on self-improvement?

Why do we often base our New Year’s resolution on things we do not like about ourselves or things we think will make us whole? Why, when reflecting on our lives, do we tend to look at what we do not have versus what we have?

The truth is, God wants something different and better for us. While we do actively participate in the work to become more like Christ, our Triune God invites us to be focused on the blessings we have already received and how we are being transformed by the goodness of God.  Paul writes:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Ephesians 1:3-6

The reality is that if we are in Christ, we have already been blessed beyond imagination. It is God’s pleasure to bless his children and he does not withhold his best from us. What would happen if we made our New Year’s resolution in light of what we have received in Christ? What if we saw ourselves as overflowing with blessings? What if we saw ourselves as already chosen and adopted in Christ?

For this new year, I challenge us to rest in the truth of what God says about humanity. Through Jesus Christ, we are holy and blameless in his sight. I pray that we will experience every spiritual blessing in Christ, no matter what this year has in store.

I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 147:12-20 · Jeremiah 31:7-14 · Ephesians 1:3-14 · John 1:(1-9), 10-18

The theme for the second week after Christmas is the God who comes to our rescue. Our call to worship Psalm speaks to God’s power to bless his children and emphasizes that nothing can stand against him. In Jeremiah we read about how God is the redeemer of Israel and about the joy that comes from being rescued by him. In Ephesians, Paul celebrates Jesus as our Savior, facilitating our adoption through his life, death, and resurrection. John speaks about Jesus, in his incarnation, as the light for all people who lived among us.

A New Light, A New Beginning

John 1:1-18

Happy New Year! We are lovingly gifted by God with another year to worship him and to be a blessing to each other. Every hour for a 24-hour period, people around the world watched their clocks strike midnight and brought in the new year with fireworks, celebrations, and time with loved ones. It seems like, at least for a little while, we were all united in our gratitude for another year of life. For many, a new year brings hope because it represents a chance for a new start.

2021 had to be one of the most anticipated years of all time. 2020 brought us a global pandemic, a racial reckoning, a divisive U.S. presidential campaign, and a slew of devastating natural disasters. For many, 2020 was a year they wanted to see in their rearview mirror—as if ending the year would bring an end to the challenges we faced. It was commonly said, “2021 is going to be better because it can’t be any worse than 2020!” Despite social distancing requirements, we brought in 2021 with hope and gusto. We craved a new beginning—the opportunity for a better tomorrow. Now that we are saying “goodbye” to 2021, we have to admit that 2021 did not solve all our problems. Furthermore, some 2020 challenges are still with us, in one degree or another, as we head into 2022.

Scientifically speaking, there is no magic in the coming of a new year. Most people understand that New Year’s Day celebrates another successful trip of the earth around the sun and not some mystical “reset button” on our lives. We intellectually understand that we will have the same problems on January 1 as we did on December 31. Yet, every year we make resolutions, celebrate, and hope for a brighter day. It is like the hope of a new beginning is irresistible.

Perhaps we are wired to crave a new beginning. It could be because we want an unpleasant situation to end. Maybe we are in a rut, and we desire a break in the monotony. Or it could be that we carry pain or shame, and we want freedom from that emotional burden. Whatever the reason, there is something inside us that is attracted to the thought of a fresh start. It may be that deep down all humans subconsciously know that our lives, our world, need to be remade. We need to be made new. We need a new beginning.

Towards the end of the second century, life for the Christian community was challenging. The Jerusalem church was being scattered because of the destruction of the Holy City and persecution by Jewish leaders. Most of the 12 apostles had been martyred and believers had good reason to fear for their lives. Christianity was catching fire in the Gentile world, but disagreements between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians threatened to divide the emerging church. It is in this climate that the apostle John wrote his Gospel. Note how he starts:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:1-9)

To John, Jesus is the beginning of everything; he is the light the world needed. Christ’s relationship with the Father, with the Holy Spirit in their midst, is the true start to all things. This passage should remind us of the creation story in Genesis because John quoted the phrase, “In the beginning.” The world had become dark, and God started by saying, “Let there be light.” In a similar way, the apostle was presenting his audience with a new beginning—the light has come, and he has a name.

Further, John is giving us a glimpse into the relationship between the Father and the Eternal Son apart from us, and their connection is deeply intimate. It is a relationship of love that led to the creation of the universe. It is that same love that compelled Christ to put on human flesh and dwell amongst us – to become the light that removes the darkness.

John’s relationship with Christ gave the apostle the insight to see creation as a relational act—the result of the internal relations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Moses, the author of Genesis, was inspired to write about the beginning of the world, and the law was given through Moses but Moses did not enjoy meals with Jesus. Moses was a mighty prophet, but he did not hear Jesus laugh or sing. Moses saw incredible things, but he never felt Jesus’ comforting embrace. It is no wonder that John wanted to reintroduce his audience to the God of relationship.

Let’s read the next 9 verses:

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive 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. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:10-18)

The Holy Spirit inspired John to understand that his readers needed to be reminded who Jesus is – to help them deal with all the challenges they faced. It may have seemed like a dark time to John’s audience. It may have seemed like the gospel movement would end. Many believers were suffering for the sake of Christ, so John wanted to shine a light on Jesus and remind them he was the true light. He did not want his audience to have a superficial, shallow understanding of Christ. Rather, the apostle wanted Christians to live in the reality of God’s power and love. So, John started by revealing that Jesus is the Creator God. He is the one John the Baptist spoke about; he is the one and only Son, who came from the Father; he is the Son of God who became the Son of Man. Their hope in Christ is well placed because he is the reason that hope exists. He is the source of hope and the light for all humanity.

Not only does John distinguish his Gospel by invoking Genesis 1, but he also gave Jesus a title not found in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. John called Jesus “the Word,” which is a term packed with meaning. In Greek, the term refers to a person’s words and the logic and reason behind those words. In Hebrew, “the word of God” is a synonym for “the law of God.” The law was viewed as the tool God used to bring about his will on the earth. Since John was appealing to people with both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, it made sense for the apostle to have both definitions in mind. Therefore, John explained that Christ embodies the reason and wisdom of God, and he is the means by which God accomplished his will on the earth. Jesus has the power to make things new and to make new beginnings. John hoped his audience would live in the reality of Christ. He wanted them to see their situation through the lens of Jesus, the One whom the darkness cannot conquer.

Do you need a new beginning? Do you need to see a way out of darkness? Do you need a fresh start? The good news is that Jesus is the light to illuminate your path, and he is the way to a fresh start. The Word of God has made all humanity new through his life, death, and resurrection, and he is willing to make you new as well. We are not talking about a superficial newness, like we seem to crave on New Year’s Day. We often desire change like weight loss or having a better work/life balance. These things are good; however, the change Jesus brings impacts this life and the life to come.  He can change us on the inside in such a way that everything becomes new. He brings a new beginning to how we see God. He brings a new beginning to how we see ourselves. He brings a new beginning to our purpose. He may not change our problems, but he can cause us to soar above our troubles. He may not change how you look, but he will make you confident in the skin you are in. He may not bring back the person you lost, but he will comfort you so you can comfort others. He can do all things well and make everything new.

As we celebrate a new year (and we are free to celebrate), we need not wait for a planet to orbit the sun to get our new beginning. We can turn to Christ as the light for our way out of any darkness. He is our fresh start. This process begins with honest, humble prayer. We should be transparent before God and tell him our heart’s desire. At the same time, we need to humbly acknowledge that our desire may be misguided. For example, a person may ask God to help them lose weight, which is the most common New Year’s resolution. In his love, God may give the person what they need instead of what they want. While losing weight may be helpful, God may be more concerned about that person’s self-image or concept of beauty. What may seem like God ignoring our prayer may be God working to cure our disease and not treat our symptoms.

The next step in seeing the way forward is letting God make us new. We can be so focused on what we think we need that we do not let God give us what we truly need. We can derail God’s restorative work if he operates in a way we do not expect. Using the same example, the person who desires weight loss may have a negative self-image due to past trauma. In praying about the weight loss, God may begin to bring those past hurts to light. It is natural to want to avoid thinking about those painful memories, but God would not bring it up unless he was willing to bring healing. In this example, talking to someone, especially someone with counseling experience, could help find God’s path to renewal. As believers, we need to follow where the Spirit leads, trusting God to know the best way to make us new.

When we allow the light to show us the way and to make us new, the final step in the process is to share our newness with others. Christ followers belong to each other, and God will not make us new for ourselves alone. We can share our newness by sharing our testimony—telling the story of how God brought renewal to our lives. We could also seek to bless those who are trying to make the same journey. Sharing the insights that God gave us can be of tremendous benefit to others. Plus, helping our brothers and sisters gives our own struggles meaning and allows us the joy of seeing God make someone else new.

Celebrating the new year can be a great reminder of the new beginning we have in Jesus. We do not have to wait another year to get our fresh start because Jesus is the Creator. He knows how to make something out of nothing. He is also the Light and he knows how to chase away the darkness. He is the Word so he knows how to accomplish God’s will in our lives. Our Jesus knows how to make everything new.

Filled With Expectation w/ Joseph Tkach Jr. W1

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Filled With Expectation w/ Joseph Tkach Jr.
January 2 – 2nd Sunday of Christmas
John 1:10-18 (NRSV) “The Word Became Flesh”

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Small Group Discussion Questions

  • What does the new year represent to you? Do you like to make resolutions?
  • If we made a New Year’s resolution in light of what we have received in Christ, what kinds of resolutions would we make?
  • Why do you think new beginnings are attractive?
  • What do you think John meant when he said that Jesus gives light to the world?
  • In what ways has Jesus made you new?

One thought on “Sermon for January 2, 2022 (Second Sunday after Christmas)”

  1. Listening to the Podcast with Joseph Tkach Jr. I think that air could be like Grace for it helps us to live 24/7 and is always there no matter what we are doing. It always surrounds us.

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