Scripture: Genesis 17:1-12a, 15-16
Key verses: (5, 15) “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations…As for Sarah your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.”
Reflection: Happy New Year! Today we flip the calendar to 2019. In our culture, it’s a day of new beginnings, new resolutions, new you-name-it. Of course, it doesn’t take long for the new to wear off. According to studies, only 8% of people end up keeping their New Year’s resolutions. Roughly half of us fall off the wagon by the end of January. Perhaps this is because there really isn’t anything that new about a date on the calendar. It does speak to our longing for new beginnings and fresh starts. We long for something new, but the strength of our will, the power of our emotion, and the clarity of our intellect continues to produce the old in the power of the same old same old.
Today’s reading from Genesis offers something truly new. We have a 99-year-old man and an 89-year-old woman who are childless whose names are changed to reflect the new thing God is going to do through them. Abram, a name which means “exalted ancestor,” becomes Abraham, which means “Ancestor of a multitude.” And Sarai is given a Hebrew name, Sarah, which means “princess.” Their name change reflects the truly new thing God is doing — giving them a baby. Now THAT is something truly new! That will change everything.
Theologian, Paul Tillich writes of new things and old things, “The new is not created out of the old, not out of the best of the old, but out of the death of the old. It is not the old which creates the new. That which creates the new is that which is beyond old and beyond new, the Eternal…The only way to discover something truly new, the new thing only God can bring, is to open ourselves to the God who is beyond this world.” (From Paul Tillich’s sermon, “The New Being.”)
So this New Year’s Day, with Abraham and Sarah, may we open ourselves to the One who is beyond old and new, the Eternal, to see what new things God can bring in our lives, our relationships, and our world.
Prayer: You are the One who does new things, O Lord, for you are beyond the same old-same old. Open my heart to welcome the new life only you can bring that I might live into the fullness of your will for my tomorrows. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].