Summary: This is a sermon that uses the fresh start of the new year as an analogy for a fresh start in Christ.
“… and a happy new year!”
[Begin with a powerpoint slide titled “I Promise To…” and have it display all the things we promise to change for the new year: work out every day, eat healthier, loose 10 pounds, spend more time with the kids, be a better spouse, finally finish that “to do” list, go to church EVERY Sunday, pray more, read the bible more, get that promotion, have a better work attitude, never make a mistake, take more ME time, get eight hours every night, read more books… etc]
Do any of those look familiar? I’ve made a few of those resolutions myself. It just seems natural… to stop at the end of a year and reflect. Then it just seems natural to take the next step at the beginning of a new year… and resolve to make changes… resolve to make improvements!
When we look back, we reflect on the many things that happened… some of which we treasure… some… we’d like to take back! We start to wish all of our memories could be good ones. We wish all of our actions could have been better. We begin to take stock of where we are and what we did… and if each of us was completely honest… we would admit there are things we would like to change about ourselves… some things we wish we could improve. Really… if we were being completely honest… we would want to be perfect! So we make resolutions like these… to make ourselves perfect!
It’s part of what’s being fed to us from almost every direction. Commercials try to convince you that this product will make you look younger! This product makes you a blonde… or a brunette! This product re-grows your hair… makes you lose 50 pounds overnight… even allows you to dress for success! We are presented with the image of chiseled abs… size 0 models… and we are told that THAT is what perfection looks like… that is what we are all supposed to strive for!
And it doesn’t stop there either! Our work demands perfection. Cut costs! Eliminate errors! Increase productivity! Work harder… for less! Synergize a proactive forward thinking out-of-the-box solution. Be… a perfect employee!
Our personal lives even demand perfection! We are expected to be perfect Mothers, Fathers, Husbands, Wives, Sons, Daughters, Sisters, Brothers, and Friends. Society even expects us to be in perfect health… both physical and mental! Don’t ever call in sick… don’t ever go into therapy!
With all of these expectations on us… we learn our dance! We live in a perfect world, with a perfect house and a perfect car, with a perfect family, and a perfect job, and we work, and play, and volunteer, and parent… and do everything flawlessly… having more than enough time for everything! Never anything wrong with us… we are fine… we are.. … … … perfect! There is only one problem with all of this!
[In the next slide… while the next paragraph is read… all of the promises are crossed out one by one. It finishes with a big red FAILURE stamped over the top.]
It is an illusion. At the end of the year… our boards are all marked and blemished with things we could’ve done… things we should’ve done. Our quest to be perfect… falls flat, as time after time, we fail to meet expectations. We make mistakes, we run out of time, we fail to be all things to all people. We are unable to find the perfect balance between work, family, friends, play, church, and self care! We are failures! And we carry with us the mark of a failure… in big red letters… unable to do everything that is expected of us!
We feel like failures. But we can’t let anybody know. We need them to think we are perfect like they are! Nothing’s wrong. We preach it so loudly and so firmly… that we begin to believe it ourselves… nothing’s wrong. We go to church, and listen to the message… but we don’t really need it… because nothing’s wrong with us. However, our souls know the truth! There are times… even we know the truth. And in those moments… we know how helpless we are. In those moments… we know just how much help we really DO need.
We begin to really know that there IS something wrong in our lives. Each one of us… is a failure. Every single one of us… is a sinner. And nothing we can do… can wipe the slate clean. But there is hope even for the worst of sinners.
[In the third slide… titled “The Power of Christ”… one by one… our failures are wiped clean.]
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.