to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” John 1:11
Christians believe themselves to be in a covenant relationship with God, Beginning a new year in that relationship, the word “year” can give an acronym, an abbreviation, for what the relationship should mean. Each of the letters of “year”, can be a reminder of a word that says what it means to be in a covenant.
The letter “y” is a reminder of the word “you”.
Saint Paul writing in the epistle for today, the Letter to the Ephesians Chapter 1 Verse 13, wrote, “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit”. Christians hear the word for themselves, they believe for themselves, they are marked out as individuals. The relationship with God is something personal, it is not about the church, or the parish, or the denomination, it is about individuals and God. It is something reassuring, but also something challenging; personal faith is what counts, it is not something people can leave to others. This is what Saint John says in today’s Gospel reading, in Chapter 1 Verse 11, he writes, “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”.
The covenant is between individuals and God, it is a personal decision, it is something people can only do for themselves. As a new year begins, people have to decide what that “y” means for them. When asked, “how do you respond?” then it must be a personal answer.
The second letter of year, the letter “e” is a reminder that worship is something that is every week.
Saint Paul reminds his readers that their giving to God’s work is something that should happen every Sunday, in the First Letter to the Corinthians Chapter 16 Verse 2, he wrote, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income”. There is no place in the Bible where it is suggested that worship is something to attend when it is convenient. Words from today’s psalm, Psalm 147 Verse 12 say, “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their trust in his steadfast love”. Fear of the Lord must surely mean that people attend worship each Lord’s Day, and not just when it is convenient.
Thinking of the “e” in “year”, are Christians prepared to covenant themselves to be at worship every week?
The letter “a” is a reminder of the simple word “all.”
Do Christians have a sense of God being all in all? In John Chapter 1 Verse 16, it says, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace”. Faith has often become something that is private and personal, something that is concerned with no more than a small part of people’s lives. When people get up in the morning do they feel God is in every part of their lives? Do they have a sense of God with them in their homes, in their work, in all the things of everyday?
There are lesson to learn from the early Irish church. When the church in Ireland was growing in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries, when the Irish monks went out to re-evangelize a Europe going through the Dark Ages in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries, there was a sense of God being all in all. No part of human life was seen as being outside God’s presence; there were prayers for every part of the day, from the lighting of the fire, in the early morning, to going to sleep at the end of the day.
The covenant should be a reminder that God is all in all – the letter “a” should remind people of that constant presence.
“You”, “every week”, “all” – the fourth letter of “year” is “r”.
“R” in the acronym stands for “realize”.
Realize doesn’t just mean come to think something; it can mean also making something real. In Saint John Chapter 1 Verse 12, people see that happening, people become aware of Jesus and their faith becomes real, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”, writes John.
To realize faith in Jesus, for it to become more than it has been, is a challenge for the new year; faith to become real.
Year—you, every week, all realize. The covenant is about doing those things, it’s about a relationship with God being personal; it’s about it being constant; it’s about it being in every part of our life; and about it being real.
The covenant is for the year.