The Second Sunday after Christmas

Welcome to the beginning of 2016! I trust we will look back on it as one in which we’ve grown closer to God through Jesus. Of course today isn’t the beginning of 2016 – there’s already been 2 full days of it (or 48 hours or 2,880 minutes or … two holidays or two work days or however else we wish to note time passing). Our calendar – the Gregorian calendar is itself relatively new – and it, too, had a beginning (in the 16th century). It would seem that everything has a beginning and that makes sense to us who are aware of pasts and present and plan for futures.

Understanding beginnings is not so simple. When did I ‘begin’? Does your answer go to my par-ents? Only? How far back should you go? And people will have different answers here and also bring in different factors as well. My father came to Australia as a post World War 2 migrant who couldn’t / wouldn’t return to Poland. So do I exist be-cause of Hitler or Stalin or both or neither?

One of the theories in physics that seems to be growing popularity is the idea of the multiverse. It is a theory about the beginnings of everything and postulates – as best as I can understand it – that there may exist many other – maybe an infinite number – of universes other than this one – parallel universes ranging from similar to ours right through to where alternative mathematics, physics and chemistry produce universes that would be absolute chaos. It’s fascinating to contemplate and best wishes to the scientists who pursue it.

But I’m not overly concerned by the associated talk that accompanies such enquiry that sug-gests that multiverses will challenge religion – at least the monotheistic, linear-time ones such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. (Some philosophical thinking and religions which have a circular view of time already have thought about such things as multiverses.) A theory about the begin-ning of our universe which wants me to consider whether other universes – if they exist – have sin and need a Saviour is not irrelevant but certainly not critical to me. Often there is an assump-tion made that if science can show what was at the beginning, then my Christian faith will tum-ble. It might if my faith ‘begins’ at the beginning! But Christian faith doesn’t work that way. It isn’t a logical deduction from hearing a story with a beginning a long time ago. Christian faith is, first and foremost, a response to an empty grave and the man who was in it. The ‘beginning’, the source, the foundation of Christian faith is encountering Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit a relationship is established and people – imperfectly – trust him, follow him, believe him and live in a relationship with him and thus with God.

Knowing Jesus, of course, gives us a perspective as we read the Bible and we discover that what – or who – is the beginning is God. When we read Genesis 1:1-3 we discover God and the Spirit and the darkness and the deep/waters. When we read John 1:1 we discover that the Word was with God and was God. That Word, of course, became flesh whom we know as Jesus. For us, the beginning is God.

So no matter what we might regard or discover as beginnings, what we discover today – and for all of this 2016 – is that God has entered our world in a particular time and place and he began a new creation in and through Jesus. Jesus is still entering this world each day through words, wa-ter, bread and wine and he is making all things new. Christians are born again. We daily die to sin and rise to new life in repentance and joy as a consequence of that new birth. This world – this universe – now – is where we are and we are not to ignore it or anyone on it but seek to serve people and grow in knowledge and understanding of this world – there’s still so much to learn! – while also growing in our relationship with Jesus. For while that grave is empty – and the world can’t seem to fill it or close it – Jesus gives us the best perspective about living in this world with all its beginnings, middles, and ends.  — GS