Happy new year – a fresh start
I really love celebrating New year’s eve, staying up and seeing in a new year with friends or family that you greatly care about. The reason I think I love it so much is that it’s a way of underlining the previous year and starting afresh on a new page.
A new year brings hope – something better, something different.
That’s why many people make New Years resolutions, to either stop a bad habit or pick up new and better once – a fresh start.
Towards the end of the Old Testament history of God’s people they needed a fresh start. They had come a long way from the days of Moses where they enjoyed the blessing of being Gods chosen people (Numbers 6:22-end), where they were given his name and known as his.
They started okay but later in their history The leaders of God’s people rarely followed God or led the people to know God for themselves. God gave opportunity after opportunity for his people to have fresh starts. time and time again He called for them to come back to him. To have a fresh start with God. That is God’s nature.
As we enter 2023 are you in need of a fresh start? How are you feeling at the beginning of this new year? Physically, mentally, emotionally. And How do you feel spiritually? Do you feel really close to God, fully living a Jesus like life, ready to shine your halo?
We are works in progress and sometimes on a daily basis feel in need of a fresh start with God. Maybe we lose our patience, maybe flat out lie, maybe we deny that we live God and know him.
The good news for all of us is that God is willing and able to give us a fresh start. A good thing for a new year
Jesus- God’s son
There’s a song I learnt when I went to Christian summer camp when I was younger it’s based on John 3:16 and shows that Jesus God’s son was the plan for helping the world have a fresh start with God and enjoy relationship with him being in his company.
As we’ve looked at over Advent and Christmas, Jesus was the promised baby, the wonderful counsellor, mighty God everlasting father, prince of peace. As Gods son he was to be our everlasting father too!
What do you think that means everlasting father?
One commentator wrote: everlasting Father refers to Jesus’ father-like character. He will provide and protect his children with wisdom and compassion. This child, son of God, would come to earth to redeem and adopt sinners into the family of God, offering love and protection as our everlasting.
Jesus as Everlasting father came to redeem and adopt – in other words to offer us a fresh start – to know again we are a child of God – he’s adopted us.
That is what our reading from Galatians tells us – that through Jesus we are redeemed, receive adoption to sonship, have God’s spirit in our hearts, and receive an inheritance from our Abba Father. We see God in all three persons at work here in the Galatians passage and He as three persons is at work in our life too.
We declare that in words of affirmation of faith. Common worship has this following affirmation of faith that I think agrees with the Galatians passage and is as follows
Affirmation of faith
We believe in God the Father,
from whom every family
in heaven and on earth is named.
We believe in God the Son,
who lives in our hearts through faith,
and fills us with his love.
We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens us
with power from on high.
We believe in one God;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And it is this God who adopts us, offers a fresh start and lets us be called a child of God.
A fresh start through Adoption
What does it mean to be adopted? What is happening when adoption takes place? In the UK Adoption is the legal process by which a child or a group of siblings who cannot be brought up within their birth family become full, permanent and legal members of their new family. In the bible reading the word sonship means the exact same thing
We may know friends who were adopted, or have been adopted ourselves. Even if we don’t know someone personally in books and movies there are quite a number of characters who were adopted. I love a good story. I love escaping into a book or a movie. To see a storyline develop, to see good overcome evil and for the hero or heroine of the story to have a happy ending.
In Roald Dahl’s book Mathilda found her family in Miss Honey, her teacher who understood her and loved her as her own
In Kung fu Panda Po was adopted by Mr Ping a Goose who raised him as his own
Paddington came all the way from Peru had no family in England but in a sense he became adopted by the Brown family – he found a place where he belonged.
Oliver is adopted by Mr Brownlow, a well off gentleman who showed love and forgiveness after Oliver got caught after his friend tried to steal from Mr Brownlow. Oliver was shown love and care like he had never known
Finally superman known as Kal-el from planet Krypton is sent to earth and found by Martha and Jonathan and given a new name, the name Clark Kent.
These examples from literature help to set the scene to dig a bit deeper into the privilege and joy that exists because we can also be called a child of God. The song Father God I wonder expresses the joy of fully knowing who we are in Christ. fully knowing that we are his children just leads to praise.
Children of God
What does being the children of God mean?
In the letter to the Galatians Paul has been writing to this church to get them to realise that through faith in Jesus they no longer have to be a slave to the law , to the old ways, but that Jesus died and rose again so that everyone would be free from the chains of sin. When we do stuff that isn’t as God intends we can get wrapped up in it. Jesus died so we could be free from that. That as we repent we start afresh with God
Being free though isn’t by what we do, or how good we try and be, it’s only possible because Jesus redeemed us.
Jesus was able to do this because he was the perfect human, raised a Jew, circumcised, knew his scriptures. Fully obeyed God. In the Old Testament God made a deal with his people, made a covenant, if they obeyed his ways he would bless them, and circumcision was a sign of that. In Luke’s gospel we read that Jesus too was circumcised – this is what qualifies him as being a man under the law, meaning he was obedient to the Jewish law in order to give freedom for all.
Do you feel free from the chains of sin? Do we still strive to be good or do we strive to know our father and in doing so become more like him.
The second thing as a child of God is that we are given Gods spirit. The New Testament letters are full of passages about how the spirit enables us to live as a member of Gods family – Galatians talks about the fruit we produce as Gods spirit lives in us (ch 4) In 2 Peter 1:4 the NLT says ‘And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.’
Are we aware of Gods spirit in us, guiding us, motivating us, helping us to change and grow into more of the family likeness, more like Jesus. Because we have Gods spirit in us we can truly call out to him as our daddy – not a distant inaccessible father but a daddy who sticks close who protects, who gives us and longs for us to have good things and cries with us through the challenges and difficulties of life.
Because that’s the third thing that comes with being a child of God receiving the blessing and inheritance of our eternal father
In Matthew we read about how as God cares for the animals so he will care even more for us his children- and he loves the animals so that’s huge!
In johns gospel we see that Jesus desire is for us to have life in all its fullness
And that being a child of God isn’t just for now it’s for eternity.
This year what will it mean for us that we are a child of God.
Maybe you need to hear you are loved and precious and to let go of what might chain you and stop you from being free because of what God has done for you.
Maybe we need to stop striving and be still and know God as our loving father.
Maybe you need to know you are never alone, that God through his Holy Spirit can live in you guiding directing when we ask Jesus to be part of our lives.
Maybe you need to know God longs to bless you and to know the certainty of eternal life
In this year ahead maybe we need to once again or for the first time have a fresh start with our God who made us and loves us, who sent his son to give us freedom, to redeem us, to give us sonship, legally adopted, given the name Child of God. Maybe we need to more fully accept we are his children and be expectant of all he has in store for us in this year ahead. Amen.
Script of sermon preached at St George’s by Rev Claire Coleman on 1st January 2023.