This was the message I presented for the 2nd Sunday after Christmas, 2 January 2000, at Walker Valley UMC. The Scriptures for this Sunday were Jeremiah 31: 7 – 14, Ephesians 1: 3 – 14, and John 1: (1 – 9), 10 – 18.
Well, it is finally the year 2000 and it would appear that everything turned over okay and that all is well. At least, it is the year 2000 for those who observe the Gregorian calendar. For those who are still on the original Julian Calendar, it is December 23, 1999 and we would be preparing for Christmas, not celebrating the New Year. The other day, I heard one commentator state that fourteen different calendars are currently in use in the world today.
Time is a man’s way of keeping track of our journey through life. As the Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes,
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8)
The reason that there are so many calendars, each with their own different year, is that each culture has its own way of remembering and keeping track of the things that are important to them. So this time that we call the year 2000 is another year in another culture.
Calendars must have a starting point, a reference to when everything of importance began. But the Gospel reading from John for today makes it clear that some things existed before man began keeping track of time.
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 is simply reminding us that God was here before us all. And that his presence would be here as long as time.
But life and the journey we make through life are more than simply turning the pages of a calendar. Even the Preacher, writing about the seasons of time, noted that life was meaningless without some sense of purpose. What we do over the coming days of this year will be that which determines how we remember it, how we record things in the book of time.
Sometimes the journeys taken are for specific purposes but to unknown destinations. Abraham and Sarah left their homeland for the Promised Land, not knowing where that might be but knowing that when they got there, Abraham would be the father of a great nation.
The disciples were on the road to Emmaus, not knowing that they would encounter Christ after the Resurrection. And occasionally, even when the destination is clear and the purpose well defined, as it was for Saul on the road to Damascus, things change. Saul met Christ and turned from persecuting Christians to Paul, the missionary to the world.
So, the challenge before us today is know what our purpose for this coming year is. And while there may be times that you think that the journey that you have made is one that you made alone, it never was that way. God has been with you throughout it all.
But how is one to find his true place in life? Is there any means whereby you may discover what it really is that God wishes you to do? You may feel inclined to say: “Even if it be true that God has some splendid thing that he wishes me to do, and to be, how can I possibly find out what it is?” Perhaps you may even be tempted to add: “I am a very plain, everyday sort of person; my circumstances are extremely restricted; the conditions of my life are just drab commonplace. How then can there be something wonderful, beautiful, splendid waiting me? Or, even if there were, how could I possibly get to know about it?” And the answer is Divinely simple – Already in your past life from time to time, God himself has whispered into your heart just that very wonderful thing, whatever it is, that he is wishing you to be, and to do, and to have. And that wonderful thing is nothing less that what is called Your Heart’s Desire. Nothing less than that. The most secret, scared wish that lies deep down at the bottom of your heart, the wonderful thing that you hardly dare to look at, or think about – the thing that you would rather die than have anyone else know of, because it seems so far beyond anything that you are, or have at the present time, that you fear that you would cruelly ridiculed if the mere thought of it were known – that is just the very thing that God is wishing you to do or to be for him. And the birth of that marvelous wish in your soul – the dawning of that secret dream — was the Voice of God himself telling you to arise and come up higher because he had need of you. (From Your Heart’s Desire by Emmet Fox)
Jesus came into this world so that we may know Him and to know that God was still here. Paul wrote much the same thing in his letter to Ephesians, part of which we read today. Whether we really know it or not, we have been given a great gift through Christ. It is a gift that will allow to us make the journey we undertake a lot easier.
Last week I outlined some simple goals for the church and I hope that you have outlined some goals for yourself as well. The nice thing about all of this is that even when we have the same goals, the journey that we take, the manner in which we seek to reach our goals will not be the same for everyone.
But even though how you undertake this journey may differ from others around you, it is a journey that will not be taken alone. Christ calls all to him, not just a select few. As Jeremiah told the people,
Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel. See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.
The coming year holds great promise for this church and for each one of us. We are being asked to do a lot. It may seem too much for anyone individual to do, which of course is true. But no one is asked to do more than they are capable of doing or to do it without the help of God. The old Chinese saying of a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step is very much a true saying. This journey of ours, that begins today, begins with the step of opening our hearts to Jesus and letting the Holy Spirit come in. To you, my friends, I ask if you are ready for this journey.