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Begin With Jesus
January 5, 1997

"HEBREWS 1:1-3

Itís a new year. I donít know what happened to the old one, but it is a new year already. Whatever you feel about the old year, whatever worked or didnít work, whatever successes and failures, whatever joys and sadness, letís begin the new year from a strong, positive, hopeful position. Letís begin the year right. Letís begin the year with Jesus. Where else shall we begin the new year, but in Jesus? Where else can you face what lies ahead, but in Jesus? Where else can you find the resources, the direction, the focus, and the confidence to live this new year, but in Jesus?

This morning your church offers you two opportunities to begin with Jesus. 1) The Covenant Prayer has been prayed the first Sunday of the year within Methodist tradition, probably all the way back to the Wesleys, over 200 years ago. This is an opportunity for you to renew or make for the first time a covenant with God. 2) Holy Communion. May you experience the presence of the living Christ in a unique way this morning. May you receive forgiveness for whatever happened last year that needs to be forgiven and set right. May you be reconciled with God and your neighbor.

Letís begin this new year with Jesus. The first three verses of the book of Hebrews is a tremendous passage about Jesus.

1) Jesus is the Purpose.

Jesus is not only the revelation of Godís purpose, Jesus is the purpose. Hebrews 1:2, "God has spoken to us by a Son." God spoke-- that is, revealed-- through the prophets, and ultimately, through the Son. Jesus is the revelation of God, v. 3, "the exact imprint of Godís very being." E. Stanley Jones said, "Jesus is the best picture God ever took." To understand God, to get a glimpse of what God is doing in the world, look at Jesus.

But, Jesus is more than the revelation of Godís purpose. Jesus is the purpose. v. 2, "But in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom God appointed heir of all things, through whom God also created the worlds." The Son was present at the beginning of creation and will be the heir of all things at the end. Do you sometimes wring your hands and join those who wonder where it is all going to end? With doom and gloom, they wring their hands over economic uncertainty, the wars that persist, the increase of drugs and violence, and lament, "Where will it all end?" We who believe know where it will all end. It will all end in Jesus. All creation is moving towards Godís purpose which has been revealed in Jesus, focused in Jesus. Eugene Peterson, with his refreshing style in The Message, translated Hebrews 3:1, "So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. Heís the centerpiece of everything we believe." The kind of life that Jesus lived, the love Jesus had for all people, the lifestyle Jesus taught which is summarized in do to others what you would have them do to you, the compassion Jesus had for the poor, women and the outcast, the justice Jesus perceived for the world is Godís purpose, and it is to that purpose that God is working. Jesus is the purpose.

As you begin this new year, is your purpose in Jesus? Is the meaning of your life grounded in Jesus? Is the direction of your life headed to Jesus? Are you focusing on Jesus? Are your dreams and goals centered in Jesus? If not, you are at odds, swimming against the tide, going against the grain, and any other hackneyed phrase I can think of! Begin the year with Jesus. Commit your life to Jesus. Put Jesus first in your priorities. Seek first the kingdom of God, and everything else will come your way.

2) Jesus is the Savior.

Hebrews 1:3, "He made purification for sins." The Good News translation uses the phrase, "achieving forgiveness for the sins of mankind." Godís plan for creation has been disturbed by what we call sin. Humans through selfishness, greed, me-first mentality have disturbed Godís plan-- not destroyed, but disturbed, disrupted. But, God out of unbelievable love for the creation, including you and me, has provided the means whereby we are brought back into the plan, back on track which leads to Jesus. Jesus is not only the purpose, Jesus is the means. Through his life, death, and resurrection, we are forgiven and reconciled with God. By believing, by trusting, by accepting his love and the salvation Jesus freely offers, we are redeemed, reconciled, and given a new life, a new start.

Is Jesus your Savior? Do you have a relationship with God? Are you forgiven? Are you beginning the new year with a new start, a fresh start? If not, begin this new year with Jesus. Admit you are a sinner, confess that your life is not what God intended, realize you are separated from God, and ask God to forgive you and to adopt you as a full member of the family. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:5, "God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ." A first-grader told her friend that she was adopted. "Adopted," said the friend. "What is that?" The girl replied, "Well, it means that I grew in my motherís heart instead of her tummy." You are a child of God. You grew in Jesusí heart.

3) Jesus is the Glory.

V. 3, "He is the reflection of Godís glory." As the moon reflects the light of the sun, so Jesus reflects the glory of God. Glory is a Latin word, used to translate several Hebrew and Greek words, to convey two meanings: First, glory, as in the "glory of Rome," is the ascription of glory, exaltation and magnificence to God. When we worship, we give glory to God, we ascribe to God glory. The Greek word is doxa, which is the root word of Doxology, the giving of glory to God.

Secondly, glory refers to light, to radiance. The bush burned brilliantly, radiantly when God spoke to Moses. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, his face shone with a brilliance, with a glory. When Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James and John, Jesus radiated a brilliant white light, a glory.

As you begin this new year, do you need some glory in your life? On these dark, gloomy, rainy days, do you need some light, some glory? When Jesus is present in your life through the Holy Spirit, there is glory, joy, light, peace, and love. As you begin this new year, give glory to God. Worship, praise God with your whole being. Let the glory of God shine through your face, your attitude, your actions, your love. Let God shine in you and around you. The light, the glory does not have to come from within you, dredged out of your limited resources, but from Jesus who reflects the brightness of Godís glory.

Jesus is the Purpose, the Savior, and the Glory. Begin this new year with Jesus.

ã 1997 Douglas I. Norris