Last week we celebrated Christmas, and tonight we will ring in the New Year!
Some of you may have already taken down the decorations and put them away. Some of you will wait until later, in January. And then there is me. I may have been known to take mine down a bit later than the average person!
Christmas may be over, but it is not the end, it was actually the beginning.
Let’s take a look back for a moment at the beginning of beginnings so that I can explain what I mean.
From the beginning, God had a plan. On the first day of creation, God spoke light into the darkness! After creation, the earth was full of God’s peace, the kind of peace in which everything works according to God’s plan. The world was made for man with everything we could ever need or want to live joyfully in the presence of our Creator. We would worship God by loving Him and loving one another forever. The angels were also there at creation, and they shouted for joy! (Job 38:4,7)
But one day, Adam and Eve rejected God’s rule over them. We refer to their rebellious choice as “the Fall.” Their choice affected all of us. The result of rejecting God’s authority over us is that we are dead spiritually and will die physically.
Thankfully, even though our Creator hates our sin, and we deserve death, there is good news! God loves you and has a plan for you. We are a part of His master plan for redeeming His world and rescuing sinners.
The first Christmas day changed the world. On that day, hope was born! God tucked Himself up under the heart of a young virgin in the form of a baby. This baby was Jesus, God Himself. He came to renew the world and restore His people. Light stepped into the darkness, and that Light continues to cover the darkness today!
On this day, everything changed! An angel delivered to shepherds, just outside of Bethlehem, the message of the long-awaited Messiah’s birth.
When the first angel finished the message, the sky exploded, and the angelic choir sang praises to God and glorified His name once again! They first sang at creation, and now they are singing at the beginning of the new creation.
God had a plan from the beginning. The angels and shepherds were part of executing that plan, and so are we! The angel brought the message of redemption to the shepherds, who shared it with everyone they saw. We, too, have been given the gospel to share with those God brings into our lives.
The angel’s message reminds us that everything God does is because of His great love for people. God knew that the best gift He could give us would not fit in a box wrapped in colored paper. The greatest gift He could give us is unconditional love. The greatest need people have is unconditional love. Only God alone could do that. But first, there was a barrier between God and us that needed to be removed. It was a barrier created by our own sin and rebellion.
God showed us how much He loves the world by giving His most priceless gift – His only Son – so that that we may have a new life, eternal life, life from now to forever. Christ overcame the sin that separates us from God. Jesus is the gift! Gifts, by definition, are received, not earned. A person receives it by believing and trusting in Christ. When we receive Jesus Christ, we become children of God (John 1:12-13).
God’s purpose in sending His Son is salvation, not condemnation. God does not delight in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 18:23, 32) God’s greatest desire is that everyone would be saved. (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)
It was because of love that God created man in the first place. Why? Because love needs people to love! In other words, love always requires tangible expression. Because of this love, God put a plan in place to rescue us from the destructive path we chose. Love sent Jesus into our world. Hope was born.
Tomorrow is the beginning of a new year.
The days following Christmas, with all the lights of the season still shining around us, is an excellent time to share the gospel. Use the coming New Year celebrations to open conversations about New Year plans. A discussion of New Year resolutions can lead to gospel sharing opportunities. We are called to love God, and because we do, we will love people. The best gift we can give those God puts in our path is the gift of His Son so that they too can be reconciled to God and have a new beginning and eternal life. Loving God and loving people should define our entire life.
So far, we’ve seen two occasions where the angels gathered to sing praises and glory to God. The first was at creation and then again at the new creation. Jesus came into the world He created to restore us to God, our Creator. Someday we will sing our song of praise in the throne room of heaven (Revelation 5). And as we live in the meantime, we know that angelic praise teams are singing! “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
There is a lot of hatred in this world. People are angry, hurting, and desperate for real love. If we are called to be God’s hands and feet, leading people to reconciliation with Him, then love is our most powerful tool. In this new year, don’t just say you love someone; prove it!