Jeremiah 31: 7-14
JOHN 1: 10-18

JANUARY 3, 2021

They came from the East … hopeful and excited because they had seen the star shining and they knew it was HIS. Their discovery led them to make the only decision any of us should be making when we sense HIM … when we experience HIM … the MESSIAH; the SON of GOD, Jesus. Sent by GOD out of love for all of humanity; Jesus came for all of us; to bring us forgiveness from our sins, when we truly repent and ask God to forgive us under God’s rules and to offer all of humanity salvation; humanity only has to welcome Him, believe in Him, and change as proven through our actions and words. The magi made the decision I hope you have made and that was to head straight to Jesus.

They came to honor HIM and to bring HIM their individual gifts … they saw the hope! Friends, they knew the hope that exists in coming home to JESUS. The Three Kings of Orient were not only bearing gifts after traveling afar … they were welcoming Jesus Christ into their lives. Lives that would never again be the same. And so, on this first Sunday of 2021, are you actively moving toward the Light and living your days, every single day, as days when you are bringing and sharing your gifts for Him out into the world because of the hope you find in coming home to Jesus; the salvation that you know is yours?

That is where we are today as we begin another calendar journey. We realize that we cannot and do not control all the winds and waves that may come into our paths. The turns we take may lead us to mountains we must climb or into valleys to stroll through. There may be storms that rain down on us soaking us with their realities even when we would prefer to be in quiet shelters … but friends in this new year that we have entered … YOU; the individual that you alone know as YOU. Are YOU ready to follow the shining Light of Jesus Christ … to live a life that moves with a deliberate pace towards the star of God … are you coming home to God to experience the hope for your future that only can be discovered if you are with God and sharing the gifts that are uniquely yours?

The prophet reflects on our possibilities when we choose to leave the dark storms and strife that the world clearly can inflict on our psyche, on our minds, and on our bodies and hearts. “The Lord proclaims, SING JOYFULLY … RAISE YOUR VOICES with PRAISE!” The Lord proclaims, “I’m going to bring them back … I will gather them from the ends of the earth among them will be the blind and the disabled, expectant mothers and those in labor; a great throng will return here. I will bring them back … I will lead them by the quiet streams and on smooth paths so they don’t stumble.” Remember, “He leadeth me besides the still waters … He restoreth my soul …” but that requires us to follow where He leads. Sadly, not everyone will accept that love from God and many choose to not follow.

And, once again, the Christmas season offers us the renewed opportunity to sense God’s love … to notice God’s efforts to bring humanity back home … and in coming home to discover or rediscover the hope that can envelop our lives in a manner where the love of the Holy is our focus and our hope is knowing God will lead us on paths where we don’t stumble because we are focused on God … on Jesus … led by the Holy Spirit.

Carla reminded me this week of the lyrics that Mary sings in Jesus Christ Superstar …

Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine
And we want you to sleep well tonight
Let the world turn without you tonight
If we try, we’ll get by, so forget all about us tonight.”

How many individuals across the oceans and throughout the continents are attempting to insert themselves into the world …. Thinking that the world cannot turn without their engagement in the practices, policies, and chants that the world offers up? How many of those individuals … or perhaps how many amongst us today in worship get worried at every single meme that is posted on their social media … who allow problems beyond their individual control to upset them … individuals just like you and me who are not willing to forget about the world’s problems … BUT still are refusing or denying or just forgetting to become engaged with God … allowing the fog makers of the world to block out the Light of Hope; the Star of David … the hope that can be ours in coming home to the Lord. The loss of joy and possibilities because of the world.

Jeremiah shared the message of God that is evident in God’s love … it is present in the Holy Table of the Sacrament that together we will be sharing this morning, which provides us with the possibility of transformation and renewal if we are willing to give up the world in our lives; John wrote, “Do not love the world nor the things that are in the world.”

THERE IS HOPE in COMING HOME … or as Jeremiah taught, “The Lord will rescue God’s people and deliver them from the power of those stronger than they are.”

A new beginning perhaps .. a renewal … resubscribing to the Good News message after perhaps allowing your subscription to Jesus to lapse because you didn’t send in the payment of truly believing in Him and in changing who you are … of using the gifts you have for God’s purposes, which are taught by Jesus … denying your faith by never having actions and words grounded in the Gospels because when that occurs you have clearly suspended your relationship with God.

Friends, it is easy to allow the loud DRUM BEATS … the even louder CHANTS … the screams of denunciation that you and I don’t want to be on the receiving end of … it is easy for the world to overwhelm us in its presence but when we do we bow down to earthly kings and rulers who refuse to see or accept the glory of Jesus we have allowed new gods to become ours.

John was prophetic about humanity’s disregard of the Holy when he makes this clear in the beginning of his Gospel, “The Light was in the world but the world did not recognize the Light. He came to His own people and they did not welcome Him.”

The turning of the calendar in our human realm offers the possibility of closing out what was and leaving it to the history books. God’s grace and truly amazing love continues to be open to any who have fallen victim to the world’s directives. In fact, it is through the Gospels that we discover God’s call … not through a pastor nor television superstar evangelist nor a raving political sycophant who claims to be the voice of God … John reminds us “No one has ever seen God” but “the only Son who is at the Father’s side has made God known.”

And, as Christians the words of Jesus should have the greatest hold on us because after all … we are followers of Jesus; believers in Jesus; and individuals willing to declare at least when we sit in church but hopefully out in the world … that Jesus is our Lord and Savior so when Jesus says to those gathered in the Upper Room for the first moments of Holy Communion, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have really known me, you will also know the Father. The words I have spoken to you, I don’t speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me does His works. Trust me when I say I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

There are no New Year’s resolutions for me … I already trimmed back the beard that I started to grow on March 16th of last year. I know I need to exercise and adjust my diet in the coming days. But, one of the realities that has been thrust in my path over the last 365 days is the reminder that life is not guaranteed … our days in this journey are finite but if we are fortunate we have control over our words, our actions, and our thoughts. We still can be the ultimate decision makers for the individuals we are and through our decisions we can have an impact on those around us. Our family members, our friends, and yes, even on total strangers.

We do not know exactly where those three kings of orient and those with them came from. But, we do know that they followed the star to discover Jesus.

We do not know the reasons that those who have turned away from from God and Christ have done so but we do know that God keeps calling them home.

On this Sunday … as we share in the bread and the cup it is my prayer that you, like me, have found the hope in coming home to the Lord. To allowing Jesus to be with us. That you can proclaim using the words of the prophet that you have been rescued by the Lord. That you are willing to shout for joy over God’s gift in Jesus Christ and that you might even dance for joy. Jeremiah wrote, “then the young women will dance for joy; the young and old men will join in. Mourning will be turned into laughter and sadness into joy.” I will comfort them, declares the Lord.”

The Gospel teaches … “Those who did welcome Jesus, those who believed in His name, He authorized to become God’s children born not from blood nor from human desire but born from God. The Word became flesh and made His home among us.”

So, are you rushing each day to discover God’s call … the hope in coming home to God … through the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels … it is a new year friends! Full of new possibilities when you and I can make our home with God and Christ. Jesus is ready to make his home among us. There truly is hope in coming home to Him! FOLLOW THE LIGHT and then go into the world to SEND THE LIGHT! AMEN

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