Though King Herod raises his voice and pounds his chest, he has lost the Savior contest. Jesus was on his hit list and he still missed. Like those first visitors at the impromptu baby shower, we have left the nativity scene and God is with us. Now, we live knowing that God is on the move and in the flesh.
Christ has come into the world and now begins the journey to his death. It does not make for a cute lullaby but Jesus was born to die for our sins. Paul tells Timothy and we would be wise to listen, “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (First Timothy 1.15, NRSV). It is the way his gospel goes.
And despite the problems that Paul is having with the Corinthian believers, he writes,
“For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (Second Corinthians 5.14-17, NRSV).
Jesus changes more about our lives than our lists can promise. In fact, Eugene Peterson says “…when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven” (First Corinthians 5.1, MSG). From self- serving to sacrificial, we live for him and just like him. Perhaps, we should not be measuring in inches shaved off but measuring in feet then. How much of our old self has been buried with him this year? This is more than putting things in the past. It is the death of Christ and our burial of the old self with him that gives us a fresh perspective, a brand spanking new beginning and a shiny life.
It is our baptismal identity. Known no longer from a human point of view, we prepare ourselves not just for a new year but a new heaven and a new earth. From the sky is falling to the heavens are opening up, there is another way to look at this. Paul paints the picture and puts the focus where it should be. We are looking at this all wrong if we are looking in the mirror.
Oswald Chambers said rightly, “No one is ever united with Christ until he (or she) is willing to relinquish not sin only, but his (or her) whole way of looking at things.” Are we even close then? Because what we know and the way we do things is so important. Because “this is who I have always been; take it or leave it.” Because “I’m not changing for anyone or anything.” Because “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Because we have “always done it this way.” Because it is just better to “leave well enough alone.”
But our new life begins with a eulogy of the old one. William Willimon says, “Whatever the gospel means, we tell ourselves, it could not mean death. Love, divine or human, could never exact something so costly.” But this is how Jesus wanted to be remembered, not for his sermons or how many persons attended his services or how much money was raised or how big the church building was. Jesus wanted us to remember that he died. And as Emil Brunner reminds us, “The death of Jesus is for us nothing if we have not died with him; the resurrection of our Lord is for us nothing if we have not been raised with him.” God revealed the divine self in Jesus, disclosed divinity in a baby so that we could be born again.
“We no longer know him from a human point of view”; the color of his hair, his physical build, where he went to school and the kind of donkey he rode on are of no consequence. Likewise, our desire for better bodies, better cars and homes are of very little importance.
Can we see that it is not a clock but Christ that makes us new, that it is not a matter of what we can do but what Christ has done, that it is not our lists but God’s love that makes life better, that we don’t need more resolutions but to receive this revelation: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new?”
So I have no lists to offer you; all I have is my resolve to see you no longer from a human point of view. Because we have been made new, it is my sincere hope that you will too.