Praise God for a New Year

At this, the first Sunday of the New Year, we read two passages from the New Testament, John 1:1-5 & 9-18 and Ephesians 1:3-14.

I donít think that there are too many who will be sorry that 2020 is over; a year which we endured rather than enjoyed. But that year is history and we donít live in the past. Now is the time to look forward. And what are we looking forward to in this new year?

While we will each have our own personal reasons for hope, the big news, the headlines in the media, and the news giving us reason for hope in the midst of these difficult times, is the arrival of vaccines to help against Covid.

All the reports and publicity are saying that, over the coming few months, it is hoped that life will become a little easier and safer. There is some light at the end of, what has been, a rather long and dark, tunnel.

But that is not the only, or even the most important, light in our lives. At Christmas, we remembered the light that came to the world.

And today, we read that, ďThe light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome itĒ. (1:5)

Much as we love reading and hearing about the events that Matthew and Luke describe for us, of the wonder and miracle that happened in Bethlehem, of the baby in the manger, of angels, shepherds and wise men, it is here, in Johnís account of the Gospel, that we gain a real understanding of what it all means.

ďThe Word became flesh and made his dwelling among usĒ, (1:14). Thatís the real headline news!

That is the earth-shattering, world-changing, time-breaking moment in history when the God of Heaven, of all Creation, became a human being.

This is God up-close and personal. This is God who has stood in our shoes; experienced the joys and sorrows, the highs and lows of real life, who laughed and shed tears. This is truly, God with us!

In Jesus, He stands as a light showing us the way back when we wandered from Him and brings life. As Jesus would later say, ďI have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullĒ, (John 10:10).

John reminds us that this light and life are there for all of us, for all who would accept Christís offer, ďto those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of GodĒ (1:12). In other words, part of Godís family.

It is also a message Paul reinforces in his letter to the people of the Church in Ephesus. It was written when held prisoner in Rome and his impending execution looming ever closer. Yet, Paul is still praising God enthusiastically and encouraging others.

All personal concerns about his own hardships and perilous situation are swept aside in an outpouring of praise. Paul, a prisoner, will not be silenced and cannot contain himself.

He talks of Godís blessings and the plan God has, and the salvation that can be found in Christ.

Paul says that we are blessed, chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, loved lavishly, shown Godís will, given an inheritanceÖ and all this is sealed with the mark of the Holy Spirit. What is more, God does all this with pleasure! No wonder Paul can praise God.

This is a message of Good News written from prison, and for us, it is again a message of hope for the New Year.

No matter our circumstances, each of us is given the opportunity to be part of Godís family. We can be transformed from being part of the family of the world up to, and into, the Family of God.

We are released from the grip of our past. By Godís grace we are forgiven from our past wrongdoing and the sin that previously separated us from God. Through Jesus we are adopted, as sons and daughters, into the Family of God.

For that, at the start of 2021, we can join with Paul, give thanks, praise God, and look to the future with confidence.

Let us pray.

Lord God, as we look to the year ahead, we do so with wonder and praise, knowing that whatever the year brings You will be with us, knowing that however lost we get You will find us, knowing that You will be by our side.

We thank you, that in Jesus you come to change what is wrong and to lead your people in ways of peace, of fellowship, and love.

We remember today that from the beginning, the Good News of Jesus Christ was not just for a few, but for all. Poor and rich, ordinary and special - you came for us all.

Let us remember that there is no one outside your love, that the message of the Gospel transcends all barriers, bringing light to all corners of the world.

Amen, and as we go into a New Year, may God guide us, Christís light shine upon us, and the Holy Spirit empower us.

Alan.