Happy New Year, you amazing, wretched, infinitely loved child of God

January makes me think of beginnings. Beginnings make me think of Genesis 1. Genesis 1 makes me think of the phrase, “God saw that it was good.” It’s repeated over and over until at the very end, after the creation of mankind, God saw that it was “very good.” This is an important point.

Every week in worship we remind ourselves that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. We confess our sins and remind ourselves of the powerful mercy of God shown in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is as it should be.

But do you remember the reason behind the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? The driving force is God’s love for human beings, after whose creation he kicked his rhetoric up a notch, calling the whole thing, “very good,” rather than simply calling it, “good,” as he did during all the earlier cycles of creation.  You are amazing. Of course we must agree with Isaiah, that all our works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but our whole identity is not “filthy rag.” Genesis does not teach us that on the sixth day God created filthy rags.

You, my friend, are the pinnacle of God’s creation and the apple of his eye. You are the object of God’s profound love. The nearest feeling we can probably experience on Earth is the love that adults feel when they hold a baby or as they play with a young child who is delighted because she took her first step. Do you realize that God gushes over you? Most parents, aunts, uncles, etc. have snuck in to watch youngsters sleeping. Do you, old though you may be, realize that God feels that way about you? Can you imagine God sneaking in while you are sleeping just to look at you and smile warmly?

It is the very depth of that love that also grieves God’s heart when we turn away from the good, like a parent’s heart breaks when her son turns away to follow a path the parent knows will end in pain and hardship.

This is how God’s redemptive love comes to its profound and disturbing zenith on the cross. We are his amazing and beloved creation. We have turned away from him. But his heart goes out to us so forcefully that death is not too much to undergo to draw us back to himself. This is how God, in his love, brings down the proud and lifts up the lowly. All are created beautiful. None live worthily. All are offered grace.

So each of us can say, “Wow, look at me!” in wonder, “Wow, look at me, I’m not what I could be,” in grief and, “Wow, look how much God loves me!”

So, you amazing, wretched, infinitely loved child of God, a blessed 2016 to you.