Isaiah 9:6 (CEB)
1Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed
away, and there was no longer any sea.2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out
of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud
voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will
dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying
or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write
this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the
thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
As we finish up our series, Calm and Bright, this passage from Revelation connects our journey into the birth of
peace, joy, love, and hope in the presence of Jesus Christ with the vision of the new heaven and new earth being
birthed in us for the new year.
On Christmas Eve, we talked about a phrase in one of the verses of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Oh holy child of Bethlehem,
descend to me, I pray.
Cast out my sin, and enter in.
Be born in me today. Amen.
New birth is one of the ways we describe the radical change that happens to us when we become followers,
believers, in Jesus Christ. That is the metaphor that Jesus uses with Nicodemus the Pharisee in John chapter
3. The Apostle Paul compares this change in identity with being adopted into a new family, the family of God.
Adoption, new birth, they represent a complete change in identity and existence. They also represent a lack
Are you familiar with the move Look Who’s Talking? It was a movie from the late 80s featuring John Travolta,
Kirstie Allie, and Bruce Willis. Willis does the voice of a baby. We hear his internal dialog from before he is born.
He has thoughts and understands himself, but like being in a foreign country where you don’t know the language,
no one understands him. He doesn’t know how to make himself understood. He can’t get anyone around him to
do what he needs or thinks he needs, so he … cries. There is a montage of scenes during his first year as he is
growing where he cries. He has to burp. He wants more cake. He’s had too much cake, and he’s tired. He’s wet.
He can’t sleep. He just wants his mom. He cries. We think that life can be hard as adults, but life can be hard
when you’re a baby.
Babies don’t know how to communicate with words, so they find a different way … They cry. Why do they cry? Because
they need or want something, and this may be the only way they can tell us. They are also in distress. They are in pain.
It might be physical. It might be emotional. Maybe they don’t understand what is going on around them. They don’
t understand why that can’t have or do what they want when they want it. Actually, that sounds like a few adults I
know. It may sound like me sometimes … In any case, babies are growing and learning. It can be tough. If we think
of our new birth this way, it might come with some crying, too.
“In Italian, ‘to give birth,’ ‘dare a la luce,’ means ‘to give to the light.” Indeed, those Italians are incredibly poetic to
describe the baby bursting into the world as “giving way to the light.” The baby comes out of the dark warmth of the
womb into the light of the world. And what is its response? CRY!
Is it all distress and tears? Certainly, not. It is new. It can be uncertain. We can be afraid of getting it wrong, but there
is joy, joy in the renewal. Joy in experiencing life in a new way that doesn’t have to be full of the cynicism that we find
in the world. Is it always that way in the church? Sadly, no, but hopefully most of the people are on their path, their
journey, growing up in this new life, this following the ways of Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells his disciples that they must be born again… they must be made new. This, like the Revelation passage lines
up with ancient wisdom from the Old Testament. Isaiah (where we started this Advent/Christmas journey) proclaims
a new heaven and earth in chapter 65.
See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they
come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create. For I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people, the sound of weeping and of
crying will be heard in it no more. (vs. 17-19)
Paul says to the 2 Corinthians chapter 4 that “everything has become new.” What does it mean to be born anew? Some
of us can be uncomfortable with the churchy term of being “born again.” However, we can find some powerful insight
as we consider what happens as we hit the light of a new day. What will we do when we encounter the light of new life
Some babies have to be encouraged to cry. They need to fill their lungs with air to survive and so they need, well,
“encouragement.” Sometimes life gives us a “wake up call,” and we realize that we are barely breathing. New life invites
us to new gulps of breath. “Spirare” – the root of words that mean “spirit” and “breath” is essential if we are to live to
The Christmas season can be like hitting our reset button for kindness and generosity. We should act like that all year
round, but we are bombarded with so many things that we forget. Or, we are overwhelmed by the things we put on
hold for the holidays, then, the credit card bill comes. The bottom line is that we don’t continue the attitudes and
behaviors of the holiday season throughout the rest of the year. We are broken, wounded creatures. It isn’t an excuse.
It is a fact. But what if we were inspired to live the new life rather than give into the every day? What if we continued
to contemplate the new birth in us? It can help us to carry the mindset and our choices through. Carry them forward.
New birth. New Year. New opportunities to keep it moving forward. New things to do, new things to learn. New things
to carry forward. If we trip or stumble, it is not utter destruction. We get up, and we begin again.
Think about a young child learning to walk. Falling down over and over, but driven by the desire to be mobile to find
that new thing to investigate and put in their mouth. So eager, so determined. Despite tumble after tumble, they keep
going for it. It is not an impediment. As they practice, their balance gets better. Their muscles get stronger, and they’re
doing it. Then, watch out! You have to organize the house in a whole new way, so that curious fingers to get into what
The Apostle Paul was talking about this new life through Jesus Christ in his Second letter to the Corinthians. The
Church in Corinth was certainly having growing pains. Perhaps, it is unfair to them that we get to see these pains
displayed on the pages of the Bible, but it is to our benefit. In the fifth chapter Paul is explaining about how this new
life is lived. It sounds remarkably like our passage from Revelation, but it is personalized. From the Kingdom NT
starting at verse 16:
16 From this moment on, therefore, we don’t regard anybody from a merely human point of
view. Even if we once regarded the Messiah that way, we don’t do so any longer. 17 Thus, if
anyone is in the Messiah, there is a new creation! Old things have gone, and look—everything
has become new! (Kingdom New Testament)
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are made new. You are a citizen of the New Jerusalem that our Revelation
passage talks about. It is a new birth, where everything is the same, but is totally different. Think of a life change
or milestone moment in your life. You graduate from school, start driving, start college, get married, have a child,
move to a new place, a new country. Everything is the same. You are the same person, but everything is different.
Your perspective of the world or of the things in it has completely changed. You regard yourself differently, as
well as the world around you. When you come to the realization of your new identity in Christ or having Christ
born in you, as we often put it at that time of year, especially with Christmas hymns and carols, your perspective
of yourself and the world will change.
What is God’s purpose in all of this? Reconciliation, God reconciling with us and the world. As changed persons,
we have a part to play, too. The Apostle Paul goes on to explain:
18 It all comes from God. He reconciled us to himself through the Messiah, and he gave us the
ministry of reconciliation. 19 This is how it came about: God was reconciling the world to himself
in the Messiah, not counting their transgressions against them, and entrusting us with the message
of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors, speaking on behalf of the Messiah, as though God were
making his appeal through us. We implore people on the Messiah’s behalf to be reconciled to God.
21 The Messiah did not know sin, but God made him to be sin on our behalf, so that in him we might
embody God’s faithfulness to the covenant.
6:1So, as we work together with God, we appeal to you in particular: when you accept God’s grace,
don’t let it go to waste! 2 This is what he says:
I listened to you when the time was right; I came to your aid on the day of salvation.
Look! The right time is now! Look! The day of salvation is here! (Kingdom New Testament)
So, as we go into the new year, don’t just take down the tree or other Christmas decorations and go back to
life as usual. How can we bring it forward with us? After this service we will gather in The PLACE next door
to do the work of reconciliation and ambassadors. We will be putting together health kits for disaster relief
for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. These kits will go to places like that areas in California that
were devastated by wild fires this fall. In March we will gather with others to put together meals for the Fight
Against Hunger. Those are good and important, but it is just as important to regard and relate to the people
around us with kindness and generosity, with grace. Christ “be born in me today.”
Some babies need to have their eyes cleared so they can open them and see. What might we be hiding from,
needing to “take the wool out from over our eyes,” and face the things we need to change in order to grow into
what God created us to be? How are we hiding from the light through denial or dread or fear? God’s presence
and strength are with us; it is time to step into that “glorious” (filled with light) existence with confidence.
And perhaps if we come through, take a big breath, open our eyes to see, have a good cry to find our voice in this
world, the silence that follows is not just calm and settled silence, it is anticipatory silence like breath held in
expectation. What will the next sound be? How will we fill the silence? What will we say? How will we now be
the ones, made in the image of the Light of Life and following the footsteps of the One whose Star shone on
humankind, how will we bring “peace on earth, goodwill to ALL creation,” so that a new heaven comes to this
And all God’s people said … Amen!