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Jan 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

NEW YEAR’S DAY — January 1, 2023



Announcement for our local Reflexion family:
The memorial service for Ellen Stieler will take place Saturday January 20, 2023 at Capo Beach Church. More details will be provided as we get closer to the date.

Morning Devotional: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: Barb and I live off a street that drivers are always speeding up and down

A motorcycle officer occasionally sits on our street at the intersection and clocks speeders
– he’s never there for more than four or five minutes, and someone is always getting a traffic ticket
• from Christmas Eve until a couple days after Christmas, that busy street was quiet
• but Thursday, when I was walking Kona, drivers were speeding again
◦ tail-gating slow drivers and back to their general aggressive, competitive, and rude behavior
◦ I thought, “Well, Christmas is over”
– there are many theories about the “Christmas spirit” (movies made and books written about it)
• it includes warm feelings, friendliness, generosity, family gatherings, decorations, and so on
◦ it’s something we have to “recover” every year, because it doesn’t last
◦ it seems we box it up with the wreaths, ornaments, and colorful lights
• all the polite greetings and wishing strangers “Happy holidays” quickly fade
◦ a few days after New Year people are already reverting to their bad habits

Is there anything Christmas brings that can last the whole year?

The answer is obvious: Christmas brings Jesus Christ
– his last words to the disciples in Matthew’s gospel:
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20)
– one New Year’s day, Henri Nouwen wrote down some of his thoughts
Nouwen, “A new beginning! We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. . . . Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises.”
• he noted that it’s difficult to live in the present
“The past and the future keep harassing us. The past with guilt, the future with worries.”
◦ he describes our worries as the “What ifs”
(imagine all the bad things that could happen)
◦ our past haunts us with guilt
(“I ought to have done a better job,” “I ought to try harder,” etc.)

Nouwen, “The real enemies of our life are the ‘oughts’ and the ‘ifs.’ They pull us backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future. But real life takes place in the here and the now. God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful. . . . Jesus came to wipe away the burden of the past and the worries for the future. He wants us to discover God where we are, here and now.”

We don’t have to work at keeping the Christmas spirit alive

Life with the Lord Jesus is the essence of the Christmas spirit
– meeting him in the moments of the New Year fuels the fire that warms the spirit

The scripture on my mind this morning, takes us somewhere else

The apostle Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and transferred to Rome for trial
– when he arrived in Rome, he met with a community of Jewish men and women
• they knew nothing of Paul, but had heard about the Jesus Movement in Judah
• so when Paul met with them,
From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:
‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’”
Acts 28:23-28

I’ve wrestled with myself over what I’m going to share next
– my inclination is to stop here
• I’ve said the important stuff
◦ if I share personal stuff, it could hang over the moment like a dark cloud
◦ but it may also benefit someone else who suffers as I do
– two days before Christmas, I went to the pharmacy to fill a prescription
• I was told they didn’t have my antidepressant in stock
◦ in fact, since October there has been a national shortage of it
◦ this is the one med that counteracts my Attention Deficit Disordered brain
• ADD not only makes concentration and paying attention difficult,
◦ but there is an affective component of shame, self-blame, and difficulty regulating emotions
◦ the past week has been pretty miserable and unsteady

Thursday, when I read this passage,

It seemed that God was saying to me,
“Won’t you open your heart and turn to me, so I can heal you?”
– right at that moment, I felt like I could not do it
• that I didn’t have it in me; the strength, or the will, or the desire
• I wasn’t acting like a stubborn child, it just seemed impossible
– the thought of preparing anything worthwhile to say this morning,
• also seemed impossible
• I asked myself,
◦ “Do I even want to add one more year to my life?”
◦ my immediate answer was NO!

Then these verses of scripture
– Israel’s spiritual disabilities through the centuries–not seeing or hearing–
• continued all the way to the time of Jesus
• even his disciples, did not always have eyes that could see or ears that could hear
– I have always wanted to see, to hear, and to perceive whatever God wants to reveal to me
• but this passage caught me in a moment of shutting myself off from God
• as soon as I heard God ask me,
“Won’t you open your heart and turn to me, so I can heal you?”
◦ my frozen heart melted
◦ I could not resist his tender love – his generosity – his effort to reach me

My days have not become any easier
– and I don’t expect them to for awhile
• but I keep turning myself toward God
• I don’t think he is asking much more from me than just that
– and unexpectedly, I have actually experienced moments of joy
• the sun broke through and caught me by surprise

Conclusion: So my talk today is about moments with Jesus

If at any time that seems hard
or the Christmas spirit slips from your heart,
perhaps when you’re taking down the lights
or dragging the Christmas tree to the curb,
imagine hearing the voice of your heavenly Father, asking,
“Won’t you open your heart and turn to me, so I can heal you?”
And see if you can pry enough space for him to squeeze in

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