Always something new
Hebrews 1:1-3

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.  He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.              (Hebrews 1:1-3)
New clothes, new shoes, maybe some new jewellery.  New toys.  (New toys sitting at home at this very minute waiting to be played with!)  Maybe a new dish to try at dinner.  For some new griefs, new pains.  For some new friends, a new home, a new community; a new baby...

Always something new at Christmas.

It would be fair to say, I think, that a lot of the excited anticipation of Christmas that most of us have grown up with has been generated by that thought:  that in this great festival of giving and receiving I might receive something new.  And in that something new I will know a sense of fulfilment or satisfaction or abundance or liberty or joy or ... something!   It might be that one something that I’ve always needed—no; not ‘needed’—that one something that I’ve always wanted.

And you know what?  That is, in fact, what we celebrate at Christmas:  something wanted; something needed; something new.
Several weeks ago I was listening to a recording of carols from the Americas that were published in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries.  I started wrestling with one particular song.  I read the verses to you:

Since man by sin has lost his God,
He roams creation through,
And vainly hopes for solid bliss
In trying something new,

The new possessed, like faded flow’rs,
Soon loses its gay hue,
The bubble now no longer takes,
The soul wants something new,

And could we call all Europe ours,
With India and Peru,
The mind would feel an aching void,
And still want something new,

But when we feel the Saviour’s love,
All good in him we view,
The soul forsakes its vain pursuits
In Christ finds something new.

And then the resurrection morn
Shall burst upon our view,
With heaven op’ning on the Lord
In scenes forever new.
                              [The Revivalist, 1868, Troy NY]


God has spoken to us in many ways.  God has travelled the journey with his people; and at every critical moment has sent a prophet, a parable, a miracle, a sign, a Word, a way out, another beginning, another chance.  No matter what the predicament, no matter who was in pursuit, no matter how deep the prison, God has spoken.  “Since man by sin has lost his God” may be our problem, but he has never lost us.  He has never left us.

Yet, we have always felt some kind of “gap”—a missing piece, a missing connection.  So we look for something that will fill the gap; make it all seem different in a much more satisfactory way.  We look for something new.

In the past God has spoken to us in many ways.  But in these days he speaks something new.  He speaks to us through his Son – who is, in all things, God; and through whom all things are created.  Creature and Creator brought together in a way that there is no gap.  (“God is love!” John writes.  “God loves so much that he gives his Son” John writes.  “We know love because we know his Son’s life” John writes.  “We love because we are loved” John writes.  No gap; no missed connection.  In Christ all things complete, connected.  From the first love that formed, to the love that formed you, loved!)

If you’ve ever read the book of Job you may have been struck by a very sharp word that God speaks to humanity – in this case through Job, who is full of questions, and doubts, and challenges, and struggles with all that is wrong and all that hurts and wanting desperately to figure it all out somehow – to humanity God says, “Were you there when I made the world?”  The answer is, of course, “No.”

Until now!  Because in the birth of Christ—our brother, in our backyard, with us—we are there in the new creation; there is something “new”.  Above and beyond every other Word spoken—from the very first “Let there be light!”—now God speaks to us in a new Word of creation, in his Son, in our Jesus, our Saviour.

Yes, Job, we are there, we are here, as God makes the world new!  No matter how long a list you can make of everything that’s naughty, not nice—of every pain, of every anxiety, of every insecurity, of every disaster natural or man-made, of every piece of decay, or every disappointment, of every hurt carried, of every burden of guilt, of every illness, of every injury, of every need and every want—no matter how long the list, God says, “I love.  I love my people.  I love you.”

This is how God has spoken to us in these days.  This is how God speaks his Word to the world at Christmas—in God, in love, in life, with us and for us, in Christ Jesus.

This is, indeed, something new.  This is not the language of cooperation and compromise, of effort and achievement, of reward or price.  This is not the language of diplomacy, or politics.  This is not the language of quid pro quo, of tit for tat, of “given what has happened in the past”, of possible-outcomes-if-maybe.  This is the language of creation—of my existence, my life, fully begun anew, as God’s creation, God’s work.

This is an absolute statement of absolute love, of absolute commitment, of absolute generosity, of absolute grace.  This is the Gospel.  The Gospel is always new—always new when any person hears it—always—because the Gospel always says that God is with me absolutely, now—yes, now, today, this moment—absolutely, regardless of the failings of the past or fears of the future, regardless of who I am or am not, of what I can or cannot, regardless of any other factor.  Wherever I am, God is. 

The creator will not and cannot be separated from that which he, in love, has made to be his own.  So he binds himself absolutely, and becomes one with us his creatures – in everything, in every condition, even unto death on a cross – yes, he bears the cross of our sin, our failure, our lostness – everything – he is bound to us, and will not let go, will not stop loving.  God in Christ addressing “the hopes and fears of all the years”:  “Oh you of little faith!  I will never leave you!  I will never forsake you!” 

This is something new – that it is not my quest (which only leads to questions...) – it is God’s plan, God’s promise, God’s pursuit of me and God’s presence with me that brings new, and renewed, his love to me in Jesus.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning, new every morning.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord, Great is Thy faithfulness.  (from Lamentations 3:22,23)

This is new – that what “was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be”: 

In the beginning the Word already existed.   The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He existed in the beginning with God.  God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

“Darkness can never extinguish it.”  There is a beautiful word in the Revelation to John which merges this picture of creation with the resurrection morn, and our view of “heaven op’ning”.  John writes:

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it.         (Revelation 21:23,24)

“The light of Christ is come into the world.”  “Light and life to all he brings.”  This is an absolute Word.  This is an eternal Word.  Into our shadows this is something new.

Try and get a sense, today, of how much those around us—even close to us—anticipate something like this, long for this—desperately.  “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.  For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (Isaiah 9:2)

This God has given to us in Christ Jesus, given to you in Christ Jesus.  “Light and life to all he brings.”  Absolutely.  Eternally.  Freely.  Give this generously to one another.  Give something new, anew.

Since man by sin has lost his God,
He roams creation through,
And vainly hopes for solid bliss
In trying something new, ...

But when we feel the Saviour’s love,
All good in him we view,
The soul forsakes its vain pursuits
In Christ finds something new.

And then the resurrection morn
Shall burst upon our view,
With heaven op’ning on the Lord
In scenes forever new.
Amen.