220102 Christmas 2C
January 2, 2022
Sermon: Two New Year’s Resolutions
Rev. Kristian Wold
There is a strange contrast in mood between our current reality as 2022 begins, and the world our lectionary texts present this morning. This new year opens with renewed concerns about the ongoing pandemic, with our health authorities urging us to limit our gatherings, and church once again being online-only as part of that society-wide effort to keep each other as safe as we can; the world of 2022 looks constricted and small. But the lectionary offers a glimpse into a world cosmic in scope. We have a window into the heavenly court as Lady Wisdom describes her own qualities - coming forth from the mouth of the Creator, covering the earth like a mist, yet dwelling in the highest heavens; we have a front seat to the events of the Exodus, discovering that it was again Lady Wisdom who “entered the soul of a servant of the Lord… and guided a holy people along a marvellous way;” and we see that this same Word of Wisdom from God was present “in the beginning” and brought all things into being. Scripture this Sunday invites us to see the big picture, claim our heritage as a people chosen “before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love,” and let the Word of grace and truth shine in and through us — dark and small though the world may be at the moment.
I’m glad to live in the world of scripture right now. I’m glad to hear its word of encouragement and grace as the new year begins.
Here’s a word of grace that I noticed today: wisdom is a gift that is yours and mine to receive, if we will. It’s a gift from God. The first reading tells us that although wisdom covers the earth and is accessible to all, she also looked for a particular place to rest. And she was given that place by God: “Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.” It’s not that God’s people of Israel are smarter, more hard working, or possessing greater virtue than anyone else, but it is by God’s gift that they are given the wisdom of the Torah and prophets, guidance for living a full and rich life in this world, a life of generosity, compassion, and peace. As the psalm tells us, God’s word of wisdom is close at hand to God’s people, giving them the power to stand up to tyranny and injustice, and guiding them to new ways of living. Wisdom is a shelter in the daylight and a light in the darkness.
You and I are part of this gift; in Christ we have also received this wisdom. As Ephesians celebrates:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…
[who] chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world
to be holy and blameless before him in love.
He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ…
With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will…
In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance…
so that we… might live for the praise of his glory.
What a beautiful grace! What a beautiful encouragement! We are already chosen and set apart to live wise and holy lives! It’s a gift.
So how would this be for a New Year’s resolution? To stop, and be present, and listen in each moment for the word of wisdom that God is whispering unceasingly: “You are chosen! You are beloved! You are holy and precious in my sight!” Those are creative and generative words. They do something in us. To live secure in this knowledge is the beginning and end of wisdom, God’s gift to us.
Here’s another word of grace that I noticed: God’s word of wisdom creates the universe.
As Lady Wisdom says:
I compassed the vault of heaven
and traversed the depths of the abyss.
Over waves of the sea, over all the earth,
and over every people and nation I have held sway.
And as the gospel of John sings out:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.
I find this beautiful and marvellous and full of grace.
I don’t think we usually appreciate enough the extent to which words create the universe. The wise Word of God, Christ himself, of course creates all things, and from that we should because of that alone we should fall down in awe before the beautiful and precious gift that is this earth and world we live in. Once again, pure gift. But by extension we should also realize that our words too, as echoes of the first Word that God spoke, create (and can also destroy) worlds. We have the capacity to go either way with our words.
Words that judge and criticize and label - these things hem people in, limit their worlds, and create resistance. They create worlds, all right, but small and confining ones that cripple people and relationships. Words, on the other hand, that affirm and appreciate and compassionately name what is - these build open and expansive worlds, reconcile relationships, and liberate human potential. They are light in the darkness; they are grace and truth.
So here’s another New Year’s resolution: because we have received Christ and trusted in his words, because we have become God’s children, because we have seen the glory of the Word made flesh — we will speak words in turn that create grace and truth in our world. We will speak words that empower and affirm and build up. We will create worlds of beauty and goodness in the year to come.
So that’s two resolutions for 2022, which I hope you will join me in making. 1) to make room to listen for God’s word of grace in our lives; 2) to speak words of grace and truth. I trust that in making these resolutions we will fill up the new year with light and joy, no matter what other circumstances may befall.
Peace and love and blessing be with you all,
in the name of Christ, the Word made flesh.