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In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

I was all ready to preach this homily for the Nativity of our Lord, but of course, my family ended up ill and we were unable to be here for the Feast. But then I started thinking again about the content of the homily, and I think for us, in our American culture, perhaps the 1st of January is a better day to preach this message anyway. And this is because I’d like us to reflect a bit this morning about new beginnings, and even more specifically, about our regrets, and new beginnings stemming from those regrets. This fits nicely for us today, since we Americans are all thinking about New Year’s resolutions – and for us as Orthodox, we’re continuing to celebrate our Lord’s Incarnation, remembering today the Circumcision of our Lord.

Mayan Calendar
The thing that really set my mind to thinking about this topic was actually all of the silly end of the world talk surrounding the Mayan calendar. I really didn’t pay much attention to all of it, like most people. But one day, on the way to work, I heard a discussion on the radio about a poll that was done where the people were asked about their greatest regrets. If the world was to end on 12-21-12, what would be their greatest regret. So, of course, people talked about their regrets, some silly and some very serious. And then near the end of the piece, one of the people who was interviewed made a comment that all this thinking about regrets actually had her thinking about how to deal with those things that she would regret. In other words, not to just keep going on with holes in her life, but how to actually do something about it. How to live a life that is constantly looking and evaluating those things that are most important, and making adjustments when needed. I was thinking about my homily for the Lord’s Nativity at the same time as I heard this radio interview, and it really brought into my mind these questions of regrets and new beginnings, beginnings that address those things we really need to be doing.

Nativity and the Life of our Lord
This theme melds very nicely with a look at the earthly life of our Lord. Every event in the life of our Lord is, in a sense, part of the new beginning for mankind. God is incarnate to address man’s failure to be what we are called to be. God becoming flesh, taking our human nature on Himself at the Annunciation, offers us the chance for true redemption and salvation, to be what we were created to be. God’s birth in the flesh just a few days ago continues this new beginning for mankind. Today, with His circumcision in the Temple, He fulfills the Old Testament law – He not only obeys the law but also completes and fulfills it – another first for mankind. In His earthly life and ministry, Christ brings to mankind the new beginning of the Messiah – He is the one come to set man free, to offer us a different and better life. He then demonstrates a love unimaginable in dying on the cross, and in His resurrection He is the first-born from the dead, as we sing in the Resurrectional Troparion and many many other places. In Christ we are offered salvation, we are offered a chance to begin our lives anew every single day, every moment of every day. We are offered a new relationship with God in Christ, a relationship only possible because of the birth and life and death and resurrection of the Godman Jesus Christ. Christ offers us the chance to overcome all of our regrets and failings and to be what we are created to be – to be joined to God by His grace (theosis – being by God’s grace all that God is by nature…the Orthodox doctrine of salvation, that God will share His life with us, and that was His purpose from the beginning).

New Year
So as we enter this new calendar year, and as we continue to celebrate the theophany (or revelation) of God in the flesh, I encourage us all to do one of those things that the Church is always calling us to do – to take an inventory of our lives. And when we see those places that are empty, those places that hold deep regret for us, whether they are spiritual or in our relationships or even just within ourselves – instead of just seeing it and having this “oh well” attitude that often plagues us, I challenge us all to do something about it. Firstly, be honest with ourselves about our lives; secondly, bring our faults and failings and sins and omissions and regrets to God, especially in confession and prayer; thirdly, make a new beginning. Make decisions to actually address the things in our life that are problematic. Figure out ways to bring healing, fullness, relationship, sanctity – whatever we find lacking, spend some real time discerning how to address that lack and how to begin to decrease it.

Even scarier than the question I heard on the radio – what regrets would you have if the world were to end on such and such a date, even scarier is the real question – what regrets will you have when you stand for judgement before the dread throne of the Lord of Glory? We’ll certainly still have regrets and sins at then end of our lives, but I want to stand before that throne and to be able to say in all honesty that I was constantly striving to fulfill the injunction of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians (2:12), working out my salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord, always striving to orient my life to Him.

May we all have a blessed New Year full of growth and healing and salvation.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever  

Author Matthew Jackson