+ This year, for New Year’s, I sort of planned a small, sort impromptu New Year’s Eve party at the Rectory. The way the Rectory looks right now, done up as it is in the mid-Century Modern décor, one would think we’re about to be ringing in 1963, instead of 2013. Only if 1963 had flatscreen color TV, Netflicks and Internet. As I have been planning this party I have been thinking a lot about one of the films I always watch at this time of year. It’s not a good movie. I don’t recommend it to any of you. But, for me, it’s one of my guilty pleasures. It’s just pure kitsch. And you know I LOVE kitsch.
The movie is 200 Cigarettes. It came out in 1999. It stars Courtney Love (see, now you all want to see this movie don’t you?) along with Paul Rudd and a bunch of other twenty-and-thirty-something actors from the 1990s and it takes place on new year’s Eve 1981. It’s a true homage to New Wave early 1980s (which I actually love, almost as much as cool early 1960s).
My favorite character in the movie is Monica, played by the actress Martha Plimpton. She is hosting a New Year’s Party and throughout the movie, she frets over the fact that no one is coming to her party. Finally, in her anxiety and frustration, she drinks way too much and passes out. But while she’s passed out, everybody arrives and have a party. Monica wakes up on New Year’s Day to a bunch of strangers asleep on her floors and she has to piece the night together through Polaroid pictures of the evening. Even her favorite musician, Elvis Costello, shows up—and of course, she missed him.
I relate the most to Monica. I know how Monica feels. I fret like that too, whenever I host a party. I fret no one’s coming. I hate the beginning part of a party that I’m hosting. I hate waiting for people to arrive. Because in my waiting, in my anxiety, I let every bad thought come into my head. I think, No body’s coming. Or as Monica would say, “I have no friends. Everybody hates me.” And then, people show up and I’m fine.
But I what I realized, I don’t like the beginning of anything. I like the comfortableness of the middle part of anything. I like when people are at my party and we’re settled down and we’re just having fun. If I could skip from the planning to the middle of parties, I would be a happy camper. The fact is, life doesn’t work that way.
And in our Gospel reading for today, we are told in no uncertain terms that there is no getting around the beginning. The beginning we experience today is a bit different than the beginning we read about in Genesis. The beginning we encounter today even harkens back further than the creation of Adam and Eve. It goes back to before those creation stories to who and what God was initially.
“In the beginning…” we hear at the beginning of St. John’s Gospel.
And they are certainly the most appropriate words if ever there were any. Especially at this time of the year. As this year runs down and the new begins, our thoughts turn to beginnings. We think about that New Year and how important a new year is our lives. It heralds for us a sense of joy—and fear—of the future. All of a sudden we are faced with the future. It lies there before us—a mystery. Will this coming year bring us joy or will it bring us sadness? Will it be a good year or a bad year? And we step forward into the New Year without knowing what that year will hold for us.
But, the fact is, at the very beginning moment, we can’t do much more than just be here, right now. We need to just experience this beginning. And we can’t let that anxiety of someone like Monica from the 200 Cigarettes take hold. We just need to be here, right now, and take part fully in this new beginning. That’s what beginnings are all about, I guess. That one moment when we can say:
“Right now! This is it! We are live and we are here! Now!”
And we all know that just as soon as we do, it’ll be past.
In our reading from John this morning, it’s also one of those moments. In that moment, we get a glimpse of one of those “right now” moments. It seems as though, for that moment, it’s all clear. At least for John anyway.
We encounter, the “Word.” The Word, as John intends, is, of course, Jesus. Jesus as the knowledge and mind of God. Jesus as the essence of God. This is an appropriate way to begin the Gospel of John and to begin our new year as well. It is a great beginning. It sets the tone for us as followers of Jesus. He was there in the beginning. And he is here, now, in our beginning. And in him, we experience a beginning that doesn’t seem to end.
In Jesus, God comes forward and becomes present among us in a way we could never possibly imagine. God appears to us in the Gospels not as God in the Old Testament, cloaked behind pillars of fire or thunderstorms or wind. Instead, in Jesus, God appears before us, as one of us in a whole new beginning. God’s word, God’s wisdom, God’s essence became flesh. God’s voice was no longer a booming voice from the sky, demanding sacrifices.
Now, in this beginning moment, God instead speaks to us as one of us. And this voice is a familiar one. The Word spoken to us in this beginning moment, is a word of Love. The commandment this Word tells us of is a commandment to love. Love God and love one another as you love yourselves.
This might actually be one of the few times when I actually enjoy the beginning of a story. I enjoy this beginning because this is the true message of Jesus as the Word.
Maybe the true message of Jesus is that, in God’s Kingdom, that beginning keeps on and on, without end. In God’s Kingdom there is constant renewal. In God’s Kingdom it is always like New Year’s Day—always fresh, always full of hope for a future that does not end or disappoint.
As we prepare to celebrate 2013, this is a great way to live this beginning moment. In this beginning moment, let us think about beginnings and how important they are for us personally and for our spiritual lives. And let us do what we can to be the bringers of new beginnings not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others. With this encounter with the Word, we, like John, are also saying in this moment, this moment is holy. This moment is special. This moment is unique and beautiful, because God is reaching out to us.
Unlike how we might feel at the New Year—full of both hope and apprehension—or how poor Monica feels waiting for the beginning of her party, in this instance, in our grasping of it, it doesn’t wiggle away from it. It doesn’t fall through our fingers like sand. Or snow. It stays with us. Always new. Always fresh. Always being renewed. We’re here. Right now. We’re alive! It’s the future.
The Word, the Essence, of God has come to us as one of us. It’s incredible, really. This moment is a glorious and holy one. So, let us, in this holy moment, be joyful. Let us in this holy moment rejoice. And let us, in this holy moment, look forward to what awaits us with courage and confidence. Amen.