Galatians 4:4-7 and Luke 2: 15-21 - New Beginnings
Still waters, we are told, run deep. They also have another quality: the ability to reflect. Both those qualities, though in a somewhat different sense, are evident in the example of Mary at the birth of Jesus, and we do well to ponder them.
For a start,there was the natural euphoria of giving birth and of holding her child close for the first time, but, alongside that, there was more. There was the memory of Gabriel, telling her that this child was the Son of God, and then, as if to confirm it, the coming of the shepherds, no doubt blurting out their story of angels praising God and directing them to where a Saviour, the Messiah, had been born. She could so easily have been carried away by it all in such a way that she scarcely gave a thought to what was happening, but she didn’t – she stored these things up in her heart, pondering what they might mean. In other words, she looked deeper, beneath the surface, and she reflected on what God had done in her life. She made time to consider and to understand.
Do we do that today? Christmas is an exciting time for us too, though for different reasons. It’s an occasion for partying and celebrations, for family reunions and get-togethers, for giving and receiving presents, laughing and making merry. And why not? – those all bring some welcome happiness in the bleakest of years. Yet, how many of us pause to reflect on what it’s ultimately all about, on what we’re celebrating and why, on the thing God has done for us that gives the season its name. It’s good to make time for fun and celebration, but, above all, we should make time to think and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, for then we will truly find something
worth getting excited about.
But what about last year, what did God do for you last year? Yes, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday on Christmas Day and last night no doubt a drink or two was raised to the New Year – maybe you went back over the last year and celebrated all that God has done for you, as I did thanking and celebrating all, the good and the bad. When I look at the fact that God planted a seed of vision for this church, long before I came here and how He has blessed us over the years with an ability to put across what we envisage His church to be like when the renewal work has finished with other people, I find that amazing, exciting and celebrate that He has done this with our help. I celebrate that He has blessed us with lots of angels who donated money to get the project to this point of being able to think about raising the money, to implement God’s vision for this Church and all of us and the community of Camberley. That God has chosen this
time, with you all and me in it- to be part of that vision – working together to fulfil His purposes in our lives and in His church. I find that amazing and exciting and scary, a bit of a tall order, with questions like ‘what can I do’? ‘How are we going to get 2.6million?’ With doubts that we will do it! I’m human. But amazed, excited and think it’s worth celebrating. Don’t you?
And, ‘It’s from the old I travel to the new’- so runs the popular hymn of Sidney Carter – and those words perfectly capture a truth at the heart of the Gospel passage: that in Christ we see a new beginning. Yet, read the account of Jesus’ presentation at the temple,(Luke 2:21 onwards) and you could be excused for thinking that nothing was going to change after all. Jesus was brought according to the Law of Moses; presented at the temple as it is written in the law of the Lord, and
a sacrifice offered as prescribed in the law of the Lord. It was only when they had done everything the law required that Mary and Joseph felt able to return home. Maybe people might be thinking ok, we’ve got planning permission but nothing is going to change, after all, we’re in a recession. Who’s going to throw money at an old church? Where are we going to get the people needed? People have better things to do with their money and their time! It is only when we lay all things before God, including the doubts and apprehensions, and ask/allow Him to move that change occurs, that things beyond our dreams start to happen. Jesus said, ‘Trust in God, trust also in me.’ ‘If you have faith as big as a mustard seed,….you can move mountains and raise
lots of money’. I’m paraphrasing a bit here. You get the drift?
But do not be fooled, however, for once Jesus began his ministry it became clear that he brought a decisive break with the old. ‘You have heard it said’, he told the crowd, concerning various points of the law, ‘but I say to you’, after which he set out a new and revolutionary interpretation of established wisdom. This was a break with the past, a parting of the ways between old and new, but it was not a complete parting, for he was also able to say, ‘Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; 'I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.’ From the old had come something new.
Turn from the birth to the death of Jesus, for thirty-three years later he was
presented to God in Jerusalem once again, only this time there were to be no sacrifices offered on his behalf – he WAS the sacrifice! Here, supremely, is the Christ who brings new life out of old, transforming what has been into what shall be. He continues to do the same in our lives today, taking what we are and reshaping our lives day by day into a new creation. He will take our doubts and turn them in belief. He will take this building (the old) and transform it into the church for the future people of Camberley (the new). He will need our help, all of us, to do it. As we hold out our arms of trust toward Him – He will guide us through all the complexities, upheavals, disappointments, failures, attacks from the enemies, doubts. He will strengthen us when we will feel drained and he will give us courage. (the old). He will rejoice with us when things go well and comfort us when they don’t. He will provide all the necessaries and the
money for the Renewal of St. Michael’s. (the new). Why? Because He loves us and the people outside, He cares about the future for us and this church. Because He wants to use us, scary though that is; (the old) for His Glory (the new). That’s a cause of celebration at the beginning of a New Year. Isn’t it? The question is ‘what do we need to change about ourselves- doubts perhaps. ‘What can we give, what can we do to help with this project.’
Let’s pray: Father, as we stand at the beginning of a New Year, help us to seek you in all that we do. Help us to cast all our doubts and fears on you. Help us to Trust you in all things. Help us to look to ourselves and ask you to show us, our part in this wonderful renewal plan you have for each of us and the church of St. Michael’s. Help us to learn to lean more on you and less on
ourselves. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.