Now is the accepted time to make
your regular annual good resolutions.
Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.
— Mark Twain, January 1863
As I write this, the Christmas Eve celebrations are a mere week in the past, and the New Year is just hours in the future. It’s lunch time, and, instead of working on my dissertation, I was thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions, and whether I would actually make it through February on them in 2016.
Because 2015 didn’t go so well.
Resolution #1: Exercise 3x each week
We have a gym in our building, which I used 3x … in calendar year 2015.
Resolution #2: Take more time off
Yeah, ummmm… not so much.
Resolution #3: Eat more vegetables
Major, abysmal fail. Today’s lunch consists of a Starbucks venti no-water hot chai latte (whole milk) & a double chocolate chunk brownie.
What can I say? I’m a work in progress.
Actually, I think it’s pretty safe to say that we all are.
And so is our world.
In part of my sermon on Christmas Eve, I used the story from the 2nd chapter of Luke, verses 8-14:
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of heaven — praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
So many books have been written about that moment. So many movies have been created and watched, imagining what it would look like, what would be like to be there. That “silent night” about which we sing. That world-changing moment of peace and joy and hope.
The world didn’t magically change around Bethlehem when Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph’s world, the world of the shepherds, was still very much a work in progress.
All the problems of the world were still there. They were still living under an oppressive foreign regime, with a strong military that enforced the laws without pity or mercy. There was still poverty. There was still fear and doubt and uncertainty.
In the midst of the chaos swirling around them, these new parents looked with wonder on the tiny child cradled in a straw-lined feeding trough. Any birth is a miracle for those who witness it. One moment there is only the mother, body wracked with pain, and then, the next, a baby’s first, deep breath and a cry. We celebrate whenever a child is born. But this birth was different. Mary and Joseph knew that this baby would change everything. This child was more than just theirs — this child was born for the world.
The shepherds, those rough and earth-browned men, they came to be the first witnesses. And they were struck with awe, because this child was a fulfillment of a promise given long ago.
The prophet Isaiah wrote this words, chapter 9, verse 2: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” And then verse 6: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The angels had proclaimed this tiny human being to be no ordinary child. This baby was fully human, yet fully divine.
He would be called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His name was Jesus, meaning “God saves.” A Savior, sent to us out of God’s unaltering love.
The Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 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.”
Jesus, born of Mary, in a humble stable in the little town of Bethlehem. The Divine became a tiny, vulnerable human being and lived among us.
This is the hope that I long to have fill my heart, soul, and mind as I move from Christmas into the New Year: for God’s love to be seen — God’s glory, God’s grace and truth and love and light — in the midst of our troubled world. Our very much a work-in-progress world.
May it be so this coming year!
Blessings to you and yours in 2016…