John 1:1-18; Ephesians 1:3-14
So what did you get for Christmas? Kids? What did you get? How about you bigger kids – mom? Dad? What did you get for Christmas? You can talk to me.
Sometimes the gifts –the best gifts – that we got for Christmas didn’t come from a store, did they! And maybe it seems just a little bit strange – just a little bit – that I should be asking you that question today – because Christmas was what – a week and a half ago? And now we’re into a New Year – and shouldn’t I be talking about New Year’s resolutions? Well, maybe. Just so you know, we’re still in the season of Christmas. You know those 12 Day of Christmas – “my true love gave to me” – yeah those 12 days – well today is day  . January 5 is the twelfth day – followed by January 6 which is known as Epiphany. Just thought I’d throw that in. So it’s okay for me to be talking about Christmas since we are still in the season of Christmas.
SO what did you get? Let me show you a short video that will tell you what we all got. It moves kind of fast – so I hope you can read – fast. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXgH8ZIz9jQ)
So God showed up. He knew exactly what we needed. And did you catch that frame that said, “We didn’t need more stuff?” Did you catch that? I know – we’ve talked about stuff and having too much stuff – or at least more stuff than we need. We talked a couple of times about that last year. So yeah – since what we DON’T need is more stuff – God gave us exactly what we do need. He gave us the gift of himself. Jesus Christ – what our Gospel lesson calls the Word made flesh.
God’s rescue plan. That’s what that video calls Jesus. I like that. Jesus is God’s rescue plan. You see – God’s plan is to rescue you – rescue me – from the powers that separate us from God. The big three. Sin, death, and the power of the devil. These are the things that separate us from God.
And you and I – we’re powerless to overcome the big three on our own. So what we need is someone who IS able to do that for us. The only One I know of is Jesus. He is the One who overcame sin, death, and the devil for you. For me.
SO the first thing I want to put on your plate today is that at Christmas God gave us exactly what we need. What we got for Christmas is the gift of God Himself – to be our Savior. That’s what we got for Christmas.
But that’s not all! Let me tell you what else we got for Christmas. I like what our other reading from the Bible tells us – the reading from the book of Ephesians. Ephesians tells us what else we got for Christmas. Adoption as sons and daughters of God. You know what that means? In Jesus Christ we have a new life – a new birth – a new identity. So it’s not just a new year that we are in – for Christmas we were given new life –new birth – new identity in Jesus Christ.
Look! If you’re tired of life being the same old, same old – I’ve got good news for you. God doesn’t want your life – doesn’t want my life – to be hum-drum, meaningless, depressing routines. God wants something better for us than that.
So the second thing I want to put on your plate is that in Jesus Christ we have new life! In Jesus Christ we have a new identity – sons and daughters of God. You are a daughter – you are a son of God. We get that from the adoption language – from the inheritance language – used in our Ephesians reading. But also in our reading from John’s Gospel. Listen again.
“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”
Did you hear that? We were given power to be children of God. But like any gift it seems to me that this gift needs to be received. So what happens when we receive him – receive this gift? When we believe in his name? God gives us power to become children of God.
SO what that means is that our life is not limited to our human birth – or our heritage – our ethnicity—our national identity. In Jesus Christ – we have a new identity. We are now children of God.
So in this New Year, God is doing a new thing. That is the exciting thing about being a child of God. God loves doing a new thing.
Now I know that 2013 was not a good year for some of you. And you’re saying, “Ring it on! I want – I need – God to do a new thing in my life.” For others, 2013 wasn’t too bad of a year. Either way, I can’t promise that 2014 will be any better – any worse – or for that matter – even that much different.
But this much I can tell you. God loves change, especially lives that are changed through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Sometimes when we come here to this house of worship, what we want and what we need is inspiration. It’s a wonderful thing to find inspiration in God’s Word – to be inspired by the worship of God that we bring to this place – whether in the Word spoken – the music – the singing – the time spent together. Inspiration is a wonderful thing.
But I also believe that inspiration without transformation leads to stagnation. Inspiration without transformation leads to stagnation.
In this New Year – I believe God wants to do a new thing in your life. What that new thing is I cannot say. That’s between you and God. But that new thing that God wants to do in your life – it can happen. When we open ourselves up to God – when we open ourselves up to receive the gift of His Son – when we open ourselves up to our new identity and the gift of new life that is ours in Jesus Christ – new things can happen. Because God loves doing a new thing.
So as we begin this New Year, let me remind you that God loves you. God forgives you. I mean, you can’t come to this church without leaving this place knowing that you are loved and forgiven. In other words, God’s not mad at you. No! God’s not waiting around to catch you doing something wrong. I think sometimes we get hung up on where we’ve been – the things we’ve said – the things we’ve done. And we have a hard time forgiving ourselves. And God says, “Stop that! You stop that!”
A new year can be a new beginning – if that’s what you need. A new chance. A new start. And let me remind you why. Just in case you didn’t catch it all the first time – let’s watch that video one more time. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXgH8ZIz9jQ)
God has given us a gift. The gift of Himself. In the person of His Son Jesus Christ. He has given us new life – a new birth – a new identity in Jesus Christ. So let God take your failures and give you a future – a future with hope! Go out from here knowing that God is giving you a new start in this New Year – go out and live your life as
adopted sons and daughters of God. Amen