Happy New Year, everyone! Or is it…? I’ll be honest that this year hasn’t started really the way I was hoping. I mean, every time a new calendar year comes around, we are like:
And I know that should be revolution, not rotation. I didn’t make the meme, but it is pretty hilarious. But while many (not me) were out celebrating the New Year just a few days ago, little did anyone know that the year isn’t going to be starting all that great. First thing that was tough is that I had to come back to work after a short week off. Then my wife catches the flu or something and is out for the better part of two days, meaning I have to watch the kids since they’re still off school, making going to work and getting work done a lot harder. And then while I think I’m on top of everything with a relatively decent sermon outline ready to be completed, the United States goes and does what they did on Friday (or Thursday, depending on what time zone you’re looking at). And of course, the internet went nuts with more memes of World War 3 and making jokes about being drafted. In the light of all this, I ended up doing today’s version of crumpling up my 90% done sermon, which is ctrl+A and delete, and rewrote this whole thing in light of the current state of the world.
No, not really a happy New Year so far.
And honestly, I don’t know what to make of all of this. On the one hand, I’m glad that I’m back at work and kids are going back to school, and that my wife was well enough to still make lunch for all of us for today, but man alive I am worried about where the world is headed. Maybe I fell too hard for the conspiracy theories, the predictions of an actual World War 3, and some reports of analysts saying that the elevating tension and aggression against Iranians and Muslims in general even here in Canada. Maybe I am just weary of all the climate change talks and those who still choose to not believe it. Maybe I am too worried about the future for my kids, who are inheriting this very, very broken world full of anger, strife, and really insensitive jokes on the internet.
As I try to wrap my head around all that is going on, I feel so deflated. As I try to look for some kind of gospel, some kind of divine good news that would pick me back up, I feel lost. As I try to just survive emotionally throughout these news stories that I keep reading, all I can say in my head is what we said throughout Advent, “come, Lord Jesus.”
But the thing is, Jesus did come. Jesus, the Word of God, who was with God in the beginning and who is God for all time and through whom God made all things, has already come. Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, the Immanuel, God with us, has come, has healed, has saved.
But why doesn’t it feel like it?
Why is the world still in shambles? Why do we still have these wars and rumours of wars? Why are the people on the internet so mean?
Well, simply put, while Jesus came into the world, the world didn’t recognise him. The world didn’t know him. The world didn’t accept him. And the world continues to do so, both on the outside of the church, as well as in.
Wait, what? We, in the church, didn’t accept Jesus either? We, in our 21st Century 20/20 vision hindsight (*wink wink), can’t see Jesus? We, declared children of God, can’t recognise Jesus in the world?
Well, I’d argue that we can’t and don’t, at least not always.
I mean, the world is broken, yes, but we are broken along with it. The world is in shambles and we feel helpless in doing anything about it. The world seems to drain out hope from anywhere we can find it, and we’ve failed to cling onto that hope as it is given to us through the work and ministry of Jesus.
We might think that we’re different from the world, but it really is more of the same thing throughout the generations.
The good news is, God hasn’t changed either. God is just as loving, just as merciful, just as gracious as the day Jesus, God’s own Son, came to earth as love, mercy, and grace incarnate, the Word made flesh, the embodiment of all that God wants us to be. And it is in this, God’s great gift to us of God’s Word that we can see more fully God’s presence in our lives, with or without our recognition, understanding, or acceptance of it.
See, this is what we celebrate in this season of Christmas that ends tomorrow at Epiphany. This is what we celebrate with this birth of Christ. This is what we celebrate with the Word made flesh, that in the midst of a broken world we can believe and have faith that there is hope. Hope in the gift of love, the gift of joy, the gift of peace. In that yes we might fail to recognise Jesus in the world, we might fail to see God’s hand at work, we might forget that there is hope, but that doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us.
So in the light of all these things going on in the world, I choose to continue to live in hope. I choose to spend time with my kids, help my wife with making the lunch for today, work like the things I do make a difference. I choose to see life that truly is life, full of love, relationship, and community, in that while things can seem bleak or out of control, we can trust and believe in the one who is our rock throughout the chaos, strengthening us to be beacons of light in the darkness, invigorating us to love in the midst of hate, empowering us to be children of God.
You know the Christian life isn’t an easy one. It is a path full of bumps and obstacles. But we aren’t called to live this life alone. Rather we are joined with each other and all the saints as the body of Christ, leaning and relying on the faith and wisdom over the years, ready to tackle whatever the world throws at us with a love that created the universe.
God is here, in this place, in all of us, in our relationships, in our hope.
As we finish off this Christmas season and look into the Epiphany, may we see the face of God shining in our midst, giving us love, peace, and above all, hope. Thanks be to God. Amen.