Summary: Interactive sermon, asking the people to identify what old things God is taking away, what new things He is leading us toward, what evidence there is of His work in the world and the church, and to what we will commit in prayer for 2009.
You would have to be obtuse indeed not to notice that the Bible is all about making old things new. The early pages of Genesis tell the story of our expulsion from the garden of delights because of our disobedience, and we discover how it so pained the heart of God for us to ignore Him that He swept us aside in a great flood of wrath. Yet we also learn that He placed in the heavens the rainbow sign to promise that never again would His wrath be all-consuming. He loves us and wants to see us made new. And so in Abraham and his descendants our God began the work of making all things new; there would be a covenant people, close to His heart, a sign to all the nations.
But the people of Israel failed in that assignment, and had to be made new. Slaves they became in Egypt, but God renewed their freedom. Wanderers they became in the wilderness, but God gave them light and food and law and leadership. Culture-bound they became, wanting a king like all the other nations, instead of receiving God’s leadership directly, so God gave them a king and then promised that He would uphold the lineage of David always. Always making them new.
But Israel resisted all of God’s efforts. Instead of following God’s way, they went after idols. Instead of uniting themselves under one Temple and one throne, they divided into two competing nations, and brother shed the blood of brother. Instead of listening to God’s prophets, who counseled them against foreign dalliances, they thirsted after power and lost their nationhood. But God brought them back from exile and made them new again, always making all things new.
And so, as we were watching all through the Advent season – in a time of economic uncertainty, something like our own; in a time of cultural confusion, much like our own; in a time of political transition, again like our own – in such a time, God said through His prophet, “I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth.” All things new, always.
Thus it was that in the fullness of time, God gave us the child of Bethlehem named Jesus, born of woman and yet born also of the Spirit, that we should become, so says the Gospel, the children of God ourselves. All things new.
You would have to be obtuse indeed not to notice that the Bible is all about making old things new.
And you would have had to be asleep to have missed the point of the message brought here on Christmas Eve, as I told the stories of three persons whom God made new. I spoke of a young man who had given himself to alcohol and abuse, but the prayers of God’s people won him over and made him new. I spoke of a woman long estranged from the people of God, but who caught a glimpse of what Christ could do for children and a community, and became a dynamo for change. And I spoke of an elderly man who seemed to have failed at everything he tried, until, after a serious medical crisis, he found a way to live creatively and make new things happen. Surely you caught it, or, if you were not present, this brief summary teaches it to you – what Paul says to the Corinthian church: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
Everything new? Is that possible? All things new? Even you? Even me?
As we come now to this new year, I am confident that the God who has been able to offer His people new life throughout the ages, and who has in Christ Jesus offered us not only new life now but life eternal – that “about to” God, that “new creation” God is still at work. Even us, even you and even me. Even though some of us think we do not need to be made new, for we like our old selves, thank you very much – even us God will make new. And, on the other side of the ledger, even though some of us think we are hopelessly entrenched in intractable habits and unsolvable problems – even us God will make new. His Word, His promise is clear.
Let’s start by thinking about what old things God has already taken away, or has started to take away. If He is to make us new, then, as the Scripture says, “everything old has passed away.” We are not going to retain all the old patterns, the old habits, the dysfunctional and damaging ways of life. Those must go as new patterns, new habits, and new ways come in. We cannot be made new if we cling tenaciously to ways of living that are outmoded and worse, that are dangerously damaging. But our Christ is making all things new, everything old has passed away – all things new, even you, even me.