Over the course of my seminary studies, I was blessed to serve as minister of adult education and programs on staff at Riverbend, a large non-denominational church here in Austin. Dr. Gerald Mann was a wonderful mentor and enthusiastically supported my preparation for pastoral ministry. He founded that church on a simple proposition, a defining truth revealed in the Gospel: “No matter who you are, no matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve done, you can begin again.” Countless people have found hope in that message; a lot of people who could not, or would not, hear much else “church” had to say.
Our celebration of the birth of Jesus is, at its heart, a celebration of new beginnings. The hopefulness and encouragement of Isaiah’s messianic prophecy rings out again in the clear air. “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Isaiah 11:1) From the old, from what is past, new growth emerges. I hear the echo of Seneca, the Roman philosopher: “Every new beginning comes from some other new beginning’s end.”
Now is an opportune time to reflect on what may be coming to an end in our lives; what has served its purpose and run its course, and perhaps consider the space this creates for new possibilities. Now might be a great time to claim the promise of new beginnings that God holds out to us: to turn the page in the unfolding narrative of our lives, to start a new chapter, to write large on a clean sheet … to begin again, holding to God’s promise that in Christ all are made new.
For the God of the good old days is the God of good new days ahead!