“What Are You?”
Can you imagine. It’s 2011 already. It seems like yesterday we were getting ready for the start of 2010. It’s the time of year when we start to wonder what every turn of the calendar will reveal to us. Will it be better than 2010? Will it be worse? Will there be celebration? Or mourning? This, of course, usually depends on if you are an optimist or a pessimist; a cup half full or a cup half empty kind of person.
However, I’ve found that even most pessimists tend to look at the start of a new calendar year with some degree of hope. This will be the year where things will change in their favour. And why not? This weekend we hang our shiny new calendars up on the wall with barely any events scribbled on them. It really is a blank slate. We can’t say that about the rest of the year because slowly it will begin to fill with ink. Meetings, doctors appointments, trips, parties, all sorts of things will begin to fill up the calendar, and it will probably happen a lot faster than we hope it will.
I told you last year I don’t make resolutions, and I still don’t. But what if we took this time with an empty calendar and just take an inventory. Take an opportunity to simply say to ourselves, “How busy do I really want to be this year?” “What activities are going to be my priority this year?” “What don’t I need to do anymore?” “Is there something I’d like to change this year? Maybe try something different for a change.”
This is the time to start thinking about these things. One of the things I would like to make a priority for myself is to continue growing spiritually. To get back into some practices I’ve let go over the last couple of years which will hopefully bring me closer to God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is also my hope that somehow you will join me on this journey of growth. To commit together to seek spiritual health in our church and in our community.
I was talking with someone the other day who works with some small rural congregations and he wanted to ask people the question, “If the church disappeared tomorrow, who would notice?” After a pause, he commented, “If the answer is only the people sitting here on a Sunday morning, then that’s the wrong answer.”
It’s also a good point. What is the church? If all we are doing is gathering on a Sunday morning then what is being accomplished? Where are we living out the great commission Jesus gave to his disciples where he told them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Following the call of God should be our primary goal. Learning what Jesus Christ has taught should be our guidelines. Listening to the whisper of the Holy Spirit should be our map. Jesus came from God to enlighten us. To show us God.
The start of the Gospel of John immediately tells us a lot about who Jesus is as John prepares us to read the rest of the book. He’s setting the stage, so when we read the miracles, when we read the words Jesus said, we know the authority he carries.
“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 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.” (John 1:1-5)
If you haven’t figured it out, the word ‘Word’ in this passage is referring to Jesus. Jesus was there in the beginning, with God, was God, and he was there in the creation of all things. He brought life into the world. He was there because Jesus is God.
This life he created, it’s a good thing. We know this because when we look at the book of Genesis, we see that everything God created he called ‘good’. This life he created gives us not just our ability to breath, eat, sleep, whatever, but it’s also light. Because we live, we also carry this light within us. Verse 9 tells us Jesus is the true light who came to enlighten everyone by coming into the world. We have a piece of God within us, we carry the light of God. What for? It allows us to dispel the darkness. To chase away the darkness and bring God’s light to the world. The darkness being the sin of the world.
Picking up at verse 10 we read, “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.”
Jesus came and people rejected him. People were so caught up in their own lives and priorities they missed that God himself came into the world to share His light with all of creation personally. They rejected his teachings, his claims. They killed him.
People continue to reject Jesus Christ today. We continue to ignore what he taught and did. We ignore the instructions he gave us. We ignore the gift he gave us in the Holy Spirit. When we look back at our reading, here’s the good news, “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. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
God’s grace renews us. It gives us a blank slate, day after day, to learn and grow closer to Him. Like a new calendar, every day is a new beginning where we can choose to live as a child of God, or as something lesser. And it really is like that. It really is a daily commitment, a daily decision that we need to make because every day has its challenges which can pull us apart from God.
But like the reading says, we have all received grace upon grace. We have all been shown the grace of God over and over again because that’s what it takes. It’s more than just saying this morning, “I am a child of God!” It’s something we have to remind ourselves of every day, sometimes more than once a day, in fact probably much more than once a day.
Repeat after me. “I am a child of God!” and say it like you really want it.
Later this week is the celebration of Epiphany. It marks the end of the Christmas season by celebrating the arrival of the magi to the home Jesus, Mary and Joseph. These wise-men, astrologers from the east came at the beckoning of a star to visit this special child. Imagine the awe and wonder they must have felt as they approached this child. How they must have felt to come and see this promised child the world didn’t even know about. Travelling thousands of miles to come and offer gifts to a king whose palace was a simple home, with a carpenter for a father and young peasant woman as his wife. Imagine, the King of kings, salvation of the world, starting life with such humble beginnings.
Shepherds, wise-men, simple parents, a countryside home. Jesus didn’t come to rule the world, he came to live in the world with the people who needed him most. Simple folk. People just like us. Showing us how we too can carry the light of God within us to offer hope and chase the darkness away.
So, what are you? Yes, you are a child of God.
When you look at your calendar and start to fill it up with various activities, remind yourself that you are a child of God, and ask God to show you how you can be a light in the world, carrying the life of God Himself within you, to chase away the darkness for others. How can we help people learn about the grace upon grace John tells us about we so freely receive?
How can we be the light of God in a world consumed by darkness?
How can we be a true child of God?