“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)
We are approaching the second Sunday after Christmas, and also the first Sunday in the New Year. So it made sense to me to start off the beginning of the year with . . . the Beginning. This is NOT the Gospel passage for the lectionary reading for the 1st of January/ New Year’s Day which has its own readings. It is indeed for the second Sunday after Chrismas. I imagine the lectionary cycle is sensitive enough to know that beginnings of years and beginnings of . . . well, of all beginnings closely aligned.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (Verses 6-9)
God is at the beginning of all things, and Christ’s coming was both a beginning and the completion of a beginning, if that makes sense.
“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. 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.” (Verses 10 – 13)
This also marks the beginning of the ordinary time of the church year – the time between Advent/Christmas and Lent (which is the next major event in the church year. In the Sundays that follow Christmas we come to learn more about this Christ that was born, and in this lectionary year what our actions of confession and penance should be like, and the forgiveness that comes.
“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. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”(Verses 14 -18)
Because I write in advance, I am actually writing this evening of Christmas Day. It is an interesting experience, writing for one time period when living in another. It reminds me that life moves ever forward. And this passage from John chapter one has special resonance when read in light of Christmas. Yes, Jesus came. As a baby who “came into his own.” A baby who was God. And God grew to be a man so that the God-self might be closer and made more clear to humanity. When has there ever been more importance and impact in the birth of a baby. No wonder the angels sand, the shepherds came, and the wise men journey!
Something to consider on New Year’s Day
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ “ (Matthew 25:31-40)
So, as we look ahead to the new year and what has begun and is beginning, let us think about what we will do in this new year. While we, as this passage from Matthew sets as the metaphor, be sheep or goats? What will we do in our new year? How will we treat the people we encounter?
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ “ (Verses 41-44)
The implication being, if the “goats” had known it was the Christ they would have acted differently. But here comes the “punch line.”
“Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Verses 45-46)
We do not know who we will meet in our new year, what opportunities we will have. Just as many Jesus’ world did not realize who Jesus was or what his divine destiny would lead him to, we may not see or recognize an opportunity to minister “to one of the least of these.” But let us not pass up any opportunity to help our fellow human being. Something important to consider as the world at large tries to figure out how to help those who have been victims and survivors of conditions we cannot even begin to imagine or understand. Let us, beloved reader, be the “sheep” of the world. Selah!