Introduction to today’s Celebration
This is a great day of joy the world over: a new year has just begun and with it is the hope of new relationships of peace, new endeavours to make life better for the human family, and resolutions to start afresh in many areas of our individual lives. We as Christians share this joy for our good news is that the Father of mercies is always extending his love and care so that we can return to him and start over afresh. In sending us his Son as a human being born of Mary in Bethlehem he showed the depth of that love: he offered a new era to the whole human race, and now we are celebrating the beginning of the two thousandth and twelfth year of that era. Now let us reflect on all that we want to start afresh in the coming year, let us ask the Father to help us overcome the old ways of sin and death, and to give us his help in our new endeavours.
The most basic fact about today is that it is New Year’s Day, the public holiday that marks the end of the holiday season, and the beginning of any number of other things from diaries to keeping accounts of various sorts. In everyone’s eyes it is a special day. If we think of time as made up of ‘stressed’ (= special days; special time) and ‘unstressed'(= ordinary days; everyday time) periods, then this is a ‘stressed’ day par excellence. It is a day that begins very consciously at midnight on New Year’s Eve with parties, fireworks, bells, and street theatre, and is ended by the television news showing how this day, because it is this day, has been celebrated around the world. There are other New Year’s days (Jewish New Year, Muslim New Year, Chinese New Year), but this is the calendar day that is most widely celebrated. So if people do celebrate by joining together for the Eucharist — and it is an excellent way for a Christian community to begin the New Year — they will expect that this is the focus of the celebration. However, if we follow the liturgical calendar they will be disappointed: there is no mention of today being New Year’s Day in the prayers in the Missal — indeed the only mention of New Year’s Day is found in the solemn blessings (Missal, p 368) where there is one for the ‘Beginning of the New Year.’ This failure to celebrate with those celebrating New Year is a major fault of the calendar reform of 1970. While it seemed to the reformers that there was no better way to mark this day than to make it a celebration of Mary’s greatest title, Theotokos, that notion is so far away from most people’s imagination that it just creates confusion.
So we have the world, and most Christians, celebrating New Year’s Day but the calendar wants to celebrate a Marian feast; but there is still more confusion: one is also celebrating the octave day of Christmas (i.e. liturgically we can still view today as Christmas Day) and there is usually a desire to celebrate this day as ‘a day of prayer for peace‘ — a theme that is just imposed on top of the liturgy. If one tries to celebrate all of these by combining them, the liturgy becomes a muddle: ‘we are here to celebrate X and Y and it is also Z and we will also keep in mind…’
Today there is still a fragrance of celebration in the air that the liturgy must capitalise on, and build upon, and sanctify: people know that something new is happening, there is a frisson of expectation, there is a moment of levity and goodwill; this can be the experience that can shape an attitude to the eucharistic mysteries so that the celebration of ordinary life also becomes a celebration of the incarnate One who has made the whole world holy by his presence.
We might wonder how this occurred, especially when there is a Votive Mass for ‘The Beginning of the Civil Year’ (Missal, p 828) but with this rubric: ‘This Mass may not be celebrated on 1 January, the solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.’ In the pre-1970 rite this day was the Octave Day and the feast of the Circumcision with the single verse, Lk 2:21, as its gospel. In order to make more of this it became the present Marian feast. However, for those parts of the world where New Year was not on 1 January the reform instituted the votive Mass with its more inclusive theology of sanctifying the experience of people as they celebrate. Alas, more and more places are thereby left without a Mass-text today that links with most people’s actual celebrations. This absence indicates a cultural and ritual weakness in the present calendar; and frequently causes a dissonance in celebrations. There is a strong case to approach today by ignoring this day as a Marian feast and as the octave-day of Christmas, and focus on it as New Year’s Day, even using the Votive Mass, praying that in the time-period that is beginning those gathered will grow in holiness.
1. Today is a new start for so many things: it is the beginning of a new time, it offers us new opportunities, it is a time of starting afresh, it is a time of new resolution, it is a moment to let go of the past. These are among the most basic themes of all human ritual. There is some sort of new year festival found in every religion: we have only to think of the Akitu new year festival of Babylonians which has left its imprint on the Old Testament, the great stone-age burial mound of Newgrange in Ireland which celebrates an annual solar event and thus marks a new year, or the fact that while in our society many wonder about the appropriateness of Christian ritual for Christmas, no one doubts the need for rituals for new year. The notion of renewal, or starting over seems to be deep within us and we need to celebrate it.
2. This notion of the need to be able to start over, to let by-gones be by-gones is precisely what we celebrate as the redemption christ has won for us.He comes to us with the offer of his foregiveness, with the possibility of a new start, a rebirth. This is why the basic Christian ritual is baptism: the past is over, life begins afresh. This is the same renewal that lies at the heart of Christian forgiveness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation: the past is dead, we can begin anew.
3. The birth of Jesus was a fresh start for the whole of humanity: that is why we Christians started counting the years from that time just over two thousand years ago.
4. Just as we want to start over today in so many ways, the Lord offers us the opportunity to start over afresh in lives through his forgiveness. He offers us the loving hand of his friendship at each gathering at his table. He offers us the strength and grace to walk towards the good in our new year’s resolutions.
5. For many people on this day, that the past will remain past and that a fresh start can be made is just a deeply held desire that may be simply the assertion of optimism over experience; for Christians the forgiveness and new beginning we all need is the very heart of the good news of Jesus the Christ.
At the beginning of the New Year many people make resolutions for the future and, although the passing of time proves that most people do not persevere, they intend to adhere faithfully and diligently to those resolutions. The New Year is usually a time of planning ahead, aspiring towards ideals, setting ambiguous targets and working to reach those ideals and achieve those targets.
Some people decide to devote more time to their spouses and children because they are conscious that, in the past, they have focused too much on work or other activities and neglected family life. Others resolve to work more efficiently so that they can honestly justify their earnings. Some students choose to study systematically and consistently, hoping that they will perform successfully in their examinations later in the year. Many people decide to become healthier by dieting and exercising, especially after their festive eating and drinking during the Christmas season.
But life is not as simple as making New Year resolutions and effortlessly keeping them. Experience teaches us that we are creatures of habit and that it is particularly difficult for most of us to remain disciplined enough to fulfil our New Year resolutions. In practice, we frequently abandon them soon afterwards, only to renew them again next year.
Christianity teaches us that human nature is flawed because of Original Sin and that, whenever we rely on ourselves alone, we are unable to sustain our efforts to change our attitudes and improve our behaviour. We constantly need God’s help and blessing. Otherwise all our efforts are ultimately doomed to failure. Thus it is appropriate to ask God’s blessing on the New Year and on everything we undertake in the future.
Invoking God’s blessing and grace, which is a share in his divine life, on us and our activities acknowledges our dependence on God. It admits that we are people of faith. It also challenges us to be humble about our talents and achievements by reminding us that our happiness and well-being originate in God’s infinite and unconditional love, which is the source of our life.
It is noteworthy that the Church begins the new civil year by celebrating the motherhood of Mary.
The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God provides a possibility to renew our devotion to Mary, who is also Mother of the Church because she is our spiritual mother — and we are the Church. We begin the New Year by reflecting on Our Lady’s humility and faith. She is a model for all Christians, and the beginning of the New Year is a good time to commit ourselves again to imitating her openness to God’s will and her love for Christ and his Church.
What are our New Year resolutions? As we plan ahead and aspire towards ideals for the future, are we aware of the need for God in our lives? For example, will we start and finish each day with a prayer that asks for God’s blessing? We begin another year by praying for God’s blessing on our lives and on our work.
As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception. (LUKE 2:19, 21)
Donal Neary SJMary is presented at Christmas as the one who pondered. She heard much that puzzled her. In the message of the shepherds, gifts of the Magi, and maybe the odd conversation with Joseph when they wondered about their child and what would happen him.
Mary the wondering mother
Mary the wondering mother
Her pondering led to wondering. It must have tried her faith but never left her without faith. She us a model of faith for today when faith leaves many questions. Pope Francis says: ‘in this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. Our life is not given to us like an opera libretto, in which all is written down; but it means going, walking, doing, searching, seeing.’ (Interview 2013).
We can question much about God but it is best if it leads us to wondering about him. The person who can wonder never gets tired of life and known that in wondering together we find life for the mind and soul.
We find nourishment for ourselves in our capacity to wonder and be amazed. Christmas can do this for us. Family memories, gathering with friends, Christmas prayer can open us to news love and new faith. If we can do this for a day, can we do it for the year?
Come to birth Lord Jesus and help me to enjoy wonder and amazement at your coming.
From The Connections:
THE WORD:In the Roman church, today’s solemnity is the oldest feast of Mary in the Church, honoring her by her first and primary title, “Mother of God.”
Jesus is given the name Yeshua – “The Lord saves.” The rite of circumcision unites Mary’s child with the chosen people and makes him an heir to the promises God made to Abraham – promises to be fulfilled in the Child himself.
HOMILY POINTS:Today we honor Mary under her most ancient title – Theotokos, Bearer of God: In accepting her role as mother of the Messiah, she becomes the first disciple of her Son, the first to embrace his Gospel of hope, compassion and reconciliation.
As Mary, the young unmarried pregnant girl, believes and trusts in the incredible thing that she is to be a part of, even the most ordinary of us can believe in our parts in the drama, too.
The God who makes all things new in Christ enables us to make this truly a new year for each one of us – a time for renewal and re-creation in the love of God, a time for making this year a year of peace in our lives and homes, a time for making this new year truly a “year of our Lord.”
From Fr. Jude Botelho:
One of our traditional invocations when we want to wish people well is to say ‘God bless you’. A Blessing implies finding favour with God. On the first day of the New Year it would be good to bless and thank God for the gift of yet another year and ask for his blessings on every day of the New Year. One of the blessings we have received is the gift of Mary Mother of God and our mother. It would be great if we could count the marvels God does for us every day!‘
Have a blessed New Year!’
|The blessing from today’s first reading is one of the best known sections of the entire Torah, a priestly blessing upon the people. The blessing is threefold, and was used by the Jewish priests to bless the people at the end of the sacrifice in the temple of Jerusalem. The words of the blessing are almost self-explanatory; three times the name of Yahweh is mentioned to remind us that He is the source of all blessing. The blessing firstly recognizes the people’s dependence on God. Secondly, it wishes that God gives the recipients a sign of his pleasure. Thirdly, it wishes ‘Peace’ that precious gift of not only internal tranquility, but prosperity and happiness as well. In summary, what is being said is that we are blessed because we are children of Yahweh, his favoured sons and daughters!|
Live the day before you die for God
A group of students being a bit puzzled by problems, went to one of their favourite teachers for advice. This teacher had gained their confidence because he seemed to have something the rest lacked. The teacher tried his best to help them, and in concluding said to them “Live the day before you die for God.” “But”objected one of the boys, “how can we do that? We don’t know the day we are going to die.” “Then,” smiled the teacher, “live every day as if it were the day before you die. It’s as simple as that.”
Antony Kolencherry in ‘Living the Word’
The Gospel reminds us of the journey of the shepherds to Bethlehem. They had heard the good news of the birth of Jesus, they believed and journeyed to discover the child born to be the Saviour of the world. Each one has to make this journey during one’s life. The journey becomes meaningful if we are ready and willing to move on, to journey solely guided by God’s word and God’s promise. This too is the call of every Christian: to listen, believe, and proclaim what we have heard, seen, and experienced in our lives. There is another journey of faith alluded to in today’s gospel narrative, the faith journey of Mary. The faith journey is not necessarily an external journey, but it could very well be the longest journey of one’s life. To discover the face of God, we need, like Mary, to listen, to treasure all these things and ponder them in our heart. One needs to be a contemplative in action. When Mary said ‘yes’ to God she did not understand, but she journeyed in faith. At the revelations of the shepherds, though the others were active in amazement, Mary was silent and pondered all these things in her heart. Mary was blessed at the Annunciation, blessed at the birth in Bethlehem, blessed by the visit of the shepherds, as she contemplated them in the depth of her heart. Each time we reflect, we pray, we let God be born in us and through us. The last part of the gospel says that on the eighth day Jesus was circumcised and given the name Jesus, which means ‘the one who saves’ the one who earns for us the privilege to call God ‘Father’. Thanks to Jesus, we have the greatest blessing, for He is as close as the mention of his name, and in and through His name alone are we saved. Today as we begin a New Year we also thank God for Mary, who gives us Jesus, who makes known to us the face of God, shining on us, looking kindly and tenderly upon us and brings us His peace.
Giving birth to God
Chinua Achebe, the well-known Nigerian author, made an interesting remark in his book ‘The Anthills of the Savanna’. He tells us how in both the Bible and his African traditions, women are blamed for all that went wrong in the world. In our biblical tradition it is the familiar story of Eve. In Achebe’s tradition, women were the reason that God, who once lived very near to his human creation left it. God was so near that the women, who were pounding their millet into flour hit God. God warned them against this. They would be careful for some time, but they would start to chat again, forget about the divine presence, and hit God again. Finally God gave up and left. In both cases, Achebe writes, men told these stories. They knew they weren’t true stories and because they felt somewhat guilty about them, they added another story in which they relate that final salvation will come through a woman, different from all other women, who cooperates with God. That is why it is good to consider that every woman is invited by God to be like Mary, cooperating like Mary, to give birth to God in themselves and in the world in which they live.
Joseph Donders in ‘With Hearts on Fire’
The big difference
A shoeshine boy was plying his trade in New York’s Grand Central Station. A silver medal danced at his neck as he slapped his shine cloth, again and again, across a man’s shoes. “Sonny,” said the man curiously, “what’s the hardware around your neck?” It’s a medal of the mother of Jesus,” the boy replied. “Why her medal?” said the man. “She’s no different from your mother.” “Could be,” said the boy, “but there’s a real big difference between her son and me.” The boy’s devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, invites me to ask: What role does Mary play in my life? How might she play an even bigger role?
Mark Link in ‘Vision 2000’
Come to the stable
“A Legend from Russia” is a poem by Phyllis McGinley about Christmas. The poem begins as the old grandmother, Babushka, is about to retire for the evening: ‘When out of the winter’s rush and roar came shepherds knocking upon her door. They tell her of a royal child a virgin just bore and beg the grandmother to come and adore. Babushka is good-hearted, but she likes her comfort, and so her reaction is to go later. “Tomorrow,” she mutters. “Wait until then.” But the shepherds come back and knock again. This time they beg only for a blanket: With comforting gifts, meat or bread, And we will carry it in your stead. Again Babushka answers, “Tomorrow.” And when tomorrow comes, she’s as good as her word. She packs a basket of food and gifts: A shawl for the lady, soft as June, For the Child in the crib a silver spoon, Rattles and toys and an ivory game . . . but the stable was empty when she came.
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
Being given a name
In his book Roots, Alex Haley tells how his African ancestors name their children. Eight days after the child’s birth, the father took the child into his arms whispered its name into its ear. That night the father completed the ceremony. Carrying the child out under the stars, alone, he lifted the baby up to the sky and said, “Behold the only thing greater than yourself.” This naming rite helps us appreciate better the two rites that surrounded the birth of Jesus: circumcision and presentation. Circumcision initiated Jesus into the community of God’s chosen people. Presentation consecrated Jesus to God.
Mark Link in ‘Daily Homilies’
Thanks for all that has been!
In the popular musical 'The Fiddler on the Roof' someone asks the wise Rabbi: Is there a blessing for the Czar?” The Rabbi replies, “May God bless and keep the Czar....far away from us!” Indeed, there is a blessing for everything and everyone. So, don’t hesitate to breathe a Spirit-blessing upon your whole world –your body, your work, your studies, your friends and the New Year. Let everything and everyone fill your mind as you whisper the words, “I bless you with the holy name of Jesus!” Remember, God has created you to be a blessing. May the New Year find us being a blessing unto all. Thus, with the name of Jesus under the protection of Mary, and with the breath of God’s Spirit, let’s pray the prayer of Dag Hammarsjold: “Lord, for all that has been, Thanks! For all that will be, Yes!”
May we be blessed each day of the New Year!
From Fr. Munachi:
In all cultures, the passing of the old year and coming of the new is marked by a two-fold celebration. The first phase of the celebration, on the last night of the old year, is marked by noise-making, drunkenness and disordely behaviour. In it humanity re-enacts the primordial chaos that enveloped the world before creation. The second phase of the celebration, as the first day of the new year dawns, is, very different. It is marked by calmness, sobriety, and orderly behaviour. In it humanity reenacts creation, the triumph of order over chaos.
African Christians often ask why there is no feast of the creation in the church’s liturgical calendar. They ask why there is no feast dedicated to God the Father, when we have feasts dedicated to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. One reason for this omission is because the early Christians were more concerned about the new order of grace that came through Jesus and Mary rather than the old order of nature that came through Adam and Eve. Today’s second reading, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, dwells on this new order which began with God sending us His son and continues with God sending us His Holy Spirit.
There are two parts to the reading. The first part dwells on the incarnation, the mystery of the Son of God becoming human (verses 4-5). The second part dwells on sanctification, that mystery whereby God sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to make us God’s own children (verses 6-7).
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children (Galatians 4:4-5).
Paul sees the entire order of nature, from creation up to the coming of Christ, as a preparation. In the fulness of time, when the preparation was complete, then the real thing happened. God sent His Son. Paul points out the contrasts between the new order in Christ and the old order in Adam.
- Jesus was God’s Son whereas Adam was only God’s creation.
- Jesus was born of a woman, Mary, whereas the woman, Eve, came from Adam.
- Jesus was born a loyal subject of the law whereas Adam would not obey God’s law.
- Jesu brought us redemption, Adam brought us the Fall.
- In Jesus we regain the dignity of being God’s children, in Adam we lost it.
And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God (Galatians 4:6-7).
God’s first attempt to make us His children through creation failed. God would not want the new creation to be a failure also. To ensure that this does not happen, God sends “the Spirit of His Son” into our hearts to teach us and empower us to be and feel and live as God’s children. This indwelling Spirit helps us to know God as our loving Father and address God with familiarity “Abba! Daddy!” This Spirit helps us to know ourselves as God’s beloved children, not as fearful slaves who have to do God’s will under fear of punishment.
As the new year begins, let us see this year as another chance given to us to get it right, to grow in familiarity with God our loving Father, and to grow in our awareness of ourselves as God’s beloved children, all of us, beloved children of the same loving Father.
Anecdote: There is a beautiful, little story about a long, tedious train journey made, one Christmas day, by some elderly residents of a nursing home who were on their way to a vacation spot. At one station, a young mother with a small child entered the train. The child smiled at all the grim faces around him and began moving from one lap to another talking, shouting with joy and chatting with everyone. Instantly, the grim and silent atmosphere in the train was changed to one of joy and happiness. Today we remember with joy and gratitude, how Mary and her Divine Son Jesus transformed a hopeless, joyless and sinful world into a place of joy and happiness.
Since we celebrate the Feast of Mary the Mother of God on New Year's Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year. I pray that the Lord Jesus and his mother Mary may enrich your lives during the New Year with an abundance of God's blessings. Today's Feast of "Mary, Mother of God" is a very appropriate way to begin a new year. This celebration reminds us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is also our Heavenly Mother. Hence our ideal motto for the New Year 2008 should be "Through Mary to Jesus!"
Today's feast answers the question of why Catholics honour Mary. Non- Christians sometimes believe that we Catholics worship Mary as a goddess who gave birth to our God. Non Catholic Christians argue that there is no Biblical basis for honouring Mary, and that Catholics worship her and make her equal to God. They fail to understand why we honour Mary by naming churches and institutions after her. They do not understand what we mean by calling her the Mother of God. The truth is that we Catholics do not worship Mary as we worship, adore God. We honour her, respect her, love her and seek her intercession praying, "Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners." We do not, ever, equate her with God nor replace God with her. Rather, we honour her primarily because God honoured her by choosing her to become the mother of Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, when He took on our flesh and became Man.
We learn the great truth that Mary is the Mother of God from St. Luke's gospel, in the message given by the angel to Mary: "You are going to be the mother of a Son and you will call Him Jesus, and He will be called the Son of the Most High." When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited
Elizabeth, after the angel had appeared to her and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus, said, "Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord's mother comes to visit me?" [Lk. 1:43]. The Holy Scriptures teach us that Jesus was both God and man. John writes: "The Word became flesh and lived among us" [Jn. 1:14]. Elizabeth refers to this event when he writes to the Galatians, "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman". St Paul
The doctrine of the Church: Based on these references in the New Testament and on the traditional belief of the early Church, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God because "according to the flesh" she gave birth to Jesus, who was truly God from the first moment of His conception by Mary. Twenty years later, in AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the Motherhood of Mary as a dogma, an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church. Since Jesus is God and Mary is his mother, she is the Mother of God, Mother of the Messiah and the Mother of Christ our Divine Saviour. We also learn from the Holy Scriptures and Tradition that God filled the mother of His only Son with all celestial graces, freed her at the moment of her conception from original sin, allowed her to play an active role in the redemptive work of Jesus, and finally took her to heaven, body and soul, after her death. As He was dying on the cross, Jesus gave us the precious gift of His own mother to be our heavenly Mother.
1) Let us strive to be pure and holy like our heavenly Mother. All mothers want their children to inherit or acquire their good qualities. Our heavenly Mother is no exception. She succeeded in training the Child Jesus, so that He grew in holiness and in "favour before God and man." Hence our best way of celebrating this feast and honouring our heavenly Mother would be to promise her that we will practice her virtues of faith, obedience, purity and humble service. In this way, we will be trying to become the saintly sons and daughters of our heavenly Mother, the holy Mother of God.
2) Three ways to make the New Year meaningful: a) Something to dream, b) Something to do, and c) Someone to love. "I have a dream'" said Martin Luther King. We should all have a noble plan of action (dream a noble dream) for every day in the New Year. We need to remember the proverb:" Cherish your yesterdays, dream your tomorrows, but live your today." It has been truly said that an idle mind is the devil's workshop. We must not be barren fig trees in God's vineyard. We must be always engaged, doing good to others and loving our fellow men and women, who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. This becomes easy when we make God the center of our life and realize His presence in all the people around us. Let us light a candle instead of blaming the darkness around us. Just as the moon borrows the sun's light to illuminate the earth, we must radiate the light of God shining within us.
3) A resolution for the New Year: We might resolve to start every morning with a short prayer: "Good morning, Lord. Thank You for extending my life for one more day. Please grant me a special anointing of your Holy Spirit so that I may do your holy will today and avoid everything evil." We might also resolve to say a short prayer, every evening, the last thing we do before we go to sleep: "Thank you Lord for helping me to do your will today. Forgive me, Lord, for saying 'no' to your grace several times today. I am really sorry for all my sins of the day. Please pardon me. And, as we close our eyes, we might say: "Good night, Lord. "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."Welcome to a new year! Thank God we have lived to see it! I have the privilege of accompanying you, if you wish, every day of this new year as we read the gospel passages together, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like us, those disciples had no idea what lay in store for them. Their minds were fixed on a disastrous past and a bleak future. But Jesus was walking beside them, talking with them, drawing out their fears: he was nearer than they could ever have imagined. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road?” (Luke 24:32). We know only one thing about the future: the Jesus will walk with us, no matter what happens.
Mary too will walk with us. It is appropriate to have a mother to accompany our first steps. January 1st is always her feast. Her title, ‘Mother of God, affirms equally the humanity and the divinity of Jesus.
The Nestorians – followers of Nestorius, the 5th-century archbishop of
Constantinople – said that Christ was two persons: the man Jesus and the divine Son of God. This view was condemned at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), which insisted that he was one person with two natures, divine and human. The most emphatic way they could say this was to affirm that Mary was not just the mother of the man Jesus, but that she was the mother of God. This was to say that Christ was one person, not two. The word used was ‘Theotokos’ (Greek for ‘God-bearer’). The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) continued the use of this term, and it has become orthodox Christian teaching. Note that it is more a statement about Christ than about Mary – or rather, equally so. Icons of the ‘Theotokos’ are common now in the West.
In a sense, when a child is born a mother is born. When a child is born, its mother begins to be a mother. Even if she was already mother to other children this new child makes her a new mother; a new chapter in her mothering begins. In the birth of the Son of God, Mary begins to be the Mother of God. When a Child is born, a Mother is born.
1. Did you know that New Year's Day is the one holiday that is almost universal? It is the world's most observed holiday.
I trust you've made your New Year's resolutions one of which is to be in worship each week. Well done for this first Sunday. I won't ask you if you've resolved to lose the weight you gained between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or if you're planning on joining a health club, or if you're going to run five miles a day. Five miles, by the way, is my total aggregate of a lifetime of running.
The late Erma Bombeck made some memorable resolutions over the years:
1. I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died.
2. I'm going to follow my husband's suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
3. I'm going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
4. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to.
2. I'm going to follow my husband's suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
3. I'm going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
4. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to.
2. Joke writer Ed McManus has some words of comfort for those of us who are setting resolutions: "Don't worry about [keeping] those 2013 News Year's resolutions," he says. "You only have to deal with them until the end of February and then you can give them up for Lent." It sounds like he has been spying on some of us.
Resolutions are good, especially if there are changes we need to make in our lives. I heard about one poor guy who dialled his girlfriend and got the following recording: "I am not available right now, but thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes."
It's good to make changes, for the most part. As we are often reminded by our critics, our spouses or our children, none of us is perfect. In fact, some of us might have some deep regrets about the way we've lived our lives.
3. Dr. Les Parrott tells about a guy in Fredericksburg, Virginia named Cliff Satterthwaite who helps people get rid of their regrets. Each New Year's Eve Mr. Satterthwaite sets up a booth there in Fredericksburg where those celebrating New Year's Eve can come for a moment of sober reflection. Put the emphasis on "sober" reflection. Those who come write their regrets on a scrap of paper, then they set a match to them and turn them to ashes in an adjacent canister. Literally, their regrets go up in smoke. At least, that's the general idea.
We could do that. We could write our regrets on a piece of paper and bring them to the altar and watch them go up in smoke. That might be very therapeutic for some of us as we begin a new year. But our text for the day from the prologue to the Gospel of John puts the emphasis not on our past, but on our future. Not on our regrets, but on our possibilities....
4. Tom Ervin, Professor of Music at the University of Arizona was attending a conference for music teachers in New York. While at the conference he purchased a talking metronome. A metronome is a device for counting the beats in a song. Before Tom and his son boarded their flight home, Tom hefted his carry-on bag onto the security-check conveyor belt.
The security guard's eyes widened as he watched the monitor. He asked Tom what he had in the bag. Then the guard slowly pulled out of the bag this strange looking device, a six-by-three-inch black box covered with dials and switches. Other travellers, sensing trouble, vacated the area.
"It's a metronome," Tom replied weakly, as his son cringed in embarrassment. "It's a talking metronome," he insisted. "Look, I'll show you." He took the box and flipped a switch, realizing that he had no idea how it worked. "One . . . two . . . three . . . four," said the metronome in perfect time. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
As they gathered their belongings, Tom's son whispered, "Aren't you glad it didn't go 'four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . '?" For the past few weeks we have been counting down the days until Christmas. Now we could count the hours until the dawning of a New Year. But we need to linger with Mary and Joseph for a little while longer, because what happened immediately after Christmas is a stark reminder of the world in which we live...
_____________________________6. Stay Focused!
We sometimes miss the great opportunities of life because we get sidetracked. I once heard the tale of a talented and gifted bloodhound in England that started a hunt by chasing a full-grown male deer. During the chase a fox crossed his path, so he began now to chase the fox. A rabbit crossed his hunting path, so he began to chase the rabbit. After chasing the rabbit for a while, a tiny field mouse crossed his path, and he chased the mouse to the corner of a farmer's barn. The bloodhound had begun the hunt chasing a prized male deer for his master and wound up barking at a tiny mouse. It is a rare human being who can do three or four different things at a time--moving in different directions.
The Apostle Paul knew his number one priority in life was to live his life to the honor and glory of God by preaching the Gospel. However, we know that Paul is not in a plush hotel room but in prison. He receives a report that all is not well at the Church in Philippi. His very life could be ended at any moment. And the list goes on. However, the Apostle Paul would not allow anything to cross his path that would deter him from his priority. Paul knew that his new life was a gift from God, not from the promises of humanity. His life was to be lived for his master. Nothing would sidetrack him of that priority!
Eric S. Ritz
___________________________7. Living by the Calendar Instead of the Clock (New Year's)
"Leisure," from the Latin, means "to be free." Leisure is anything that restores you to peace while you are doing it. So, gardening, golf, reading, puzzles, and many other things can restore us to peace as we do them. Another cousin of leisure is the word "paragon." This little-used word means "the second thing that we do in life that keeps the first thing in tune." Hence, our work may draw energy from us, and we have then a "paragon," a leisure thing we do in order to restore us.
Most often, to build toward leisure demands that we disassemble something else. In Thomas Moore's book Meditations, he tells of a pilgrim walking along a road. The pilgrim sees some men working on a stone building.
"You look like a monk," the pilgrim said.
"I am that," said the monk.
"Who is that working on the abbey?"
"My monks. I'm the abbot."
"It's good to see a monastery going up," said the pilgrim.
"They're tearing it down," said the abbot.
"Whatever for?" asked the pilgrim.
"So we can see the sun rise at dawn," said the abbot.
Richard A. Wing
________________________________________8. Who Needs Resolutions? We Need a Revolution!
Welcome to this New Year. I trust that one of your resolutions for this year is to be in worship every week. Good for you. That's one resolution you've kept for at least one week.
I heard about one poor fellow who decided to make only resolutions this year he could keep. He resolved to gain weight, to stop exercising, to read less and watch more TV, to procrastinate more, to quit giving money and time to charity, to not date any member of the cast of Baywatch, and to never make New Year's resolutions again.
Maybe he's onto something. Why torture ourselves when we never keep those resolutions more than a week anyway?
What we need, of course, is not another resolution, but a revolution. We need a turning point in our lives. Like the wise men of old we need to catch a glimpse of a guiding light, and we need to follow that light to a New Life in Christ.
_______________________9. Seven Resolutions
I like a list of resolutions prepared by the Rev. Walter Schoedel. He calls them '7-UPS for the New Year.' No, this has nothing to do with the soft drink. These 7-UPS fall under the heading of attitudes and actions.
The first is WAKE UP--Begin the day with the Lord. It is His day. Rejoice in it.
The second is DRESS-UP--Put on a smile. It improves your looks. It says something about your attitude.
The third is SHUT-UP--Watch your tongue. Don't gossip. Say nice things. Learn to listen.
The fourth is STAND-UP--Take a stand for what you believe. Resist evil. Do good.
Five, LOOK-UP--Open your eyes to the Lord. After all, He is your only Savior.
Six, REACH-UP--Spend time in prayer with your adorations, confessions, thanksgivings and supplications to the Lord.
And finally, LIFT-UP--Be available to help those in need--serving, supporting, and sharing.
If you're going to make New Year's resolutions this year, let me suggest Rev. Schoedel's list.
Why do we bother to make New Year's resolutions in the first place? Why do we feel this need each January 1 to set new goals? Maybe it is because resolutions help us to identify our priorities. They answer the Question: how do I want to invest my time, energy, money, and talents in this New Year? The New Year reminds us that time is passing. It is up to each of us to maximize the potential of every moment.
_____________________10. Keep Your Head Right
Pastor Stephen Brown taught swimming and diving for a number of years. He tells about a young boy named Billy. Billy had watched so many professional divers and wanted so much to dive like them that he refused to take time to learn the basics. Time after time Brown tried to help Billy see that the most important thing about diving was to keep his head in the proper position. If his head entered the water properly, Brown explained, the rest of his body would enter the water properly--at least, more properly than it had been. Billy would dive into the pool, do a belly flop, and come up grinning, "Mr. Brown," he would shout, "were my feet together?"
"Billy, I don't care whether your feet were together or not," Brown shouted back. "Make sure your head is straight, then everything else will work out."
The next time Billy would stand on the edge of the pool and really concentrate. Then he would dive and, once again, make a mess of it. "Mr. Brown, were my hands together?"
"Billy," Brown would groan in frustration, "I'm going to get you a neck brace and weld it onto your head. For the hundredth time, if your head is right the rest of you will be right. If your head is wrong, the rest of you will be wrong."
And isn't that true in all of life? If our head is wrong, our marriage will probably suffer. If our head is wrong, our priorities will be fouled up. If our head is wrong, it may even affect our health in a negative way. God understands our distress and God seeks to make us new persons so that we can handle our distress more effectively.
____________________11. Humor: Resolutions
Wife to Spouse: "I don't want to brag, but here it is February and I've kept every one of my New Year's resolutions. I've kept them in a manila folder in the back of my desk!"Orben's Current Comedy
_____________________12. Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
___________________________13. Getting Started
Some of us make resolutions like one man, named George, I heard about recently. He said to a friend: "There's nothing like getting up at six in the morning, going for a run around the park, and taking a brisk shower before breakfast."His friend Bob asked, "How long have you been doing this?"
George said: "I start tomorrow."
_________________________14. Humor: 90 Days
We're only two days away from the New Year, and I can feel the anticipation--or dread, depending on your point of view--growing.
I heard one guy say he already dreads the New Year. He said, "The holidays aren't quite over and already I'm about 90 days ahead on my calories and 90 days behind on my bills." Some of you can identify with him.