Matthew 2 : 1 – 12 and John 1: 1 & 12 Power to Become January 2, 2022


Power to Become

Matthew 2 : 1 – 12 and John 1: 1 & 12.


(preached on January 2, 2022)


Welcome to the first Sunday of the New Year.  A new year is a fresh start.  A new year brings new beginnings.  The Wise Men may be thinking of new beginnings as they approach the baby Jesus in our gospel passage for today, from Matthew.  They have come to worship a new king.  He’s just a baby, but they know this baby is unique.  They’ve made a long journey to see this unique, one of a kind baby for themselves.  They believe this baby will become a king who will begin a reign of justice and mercy.  They want to be among the first to worship him.


John the Evangelist also speaks of a new beginning in his gospel: the new beginning God was making with humanity in the birth of Jesus.  He writes:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… [The Word of God was Jesus.] To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:, ff).  John is writing about who people can become when they follow Jesus.  He’s not writing about who we have been, or who we are now.  He’s writing about who Jesus helps us become: “he [gives us] power to become children of God.”  He helps us live fully into the lives God intends for us.


It’s a new year, a new beginning.  How would this year be different for you, and for me, if we knew, really knew, in our bones, that we have the power to live the lives God intends for us; that we can be more than we are today?  How might this year be different for you and me if we lived the next 365 days, really believing that Jesus gives us that power?  That when we follow Jesus, he gives us, to use a more modern word, the potential to become the men and women God created us to be?


Each of us brings potential into the world.  In his book, The Power of Verbal Intelligence, Tony Buzan gives an example of that potential.  He describes the origins of the Suzuki method.  This is a method of teaching children to play the violin at a very young age, and millions of children have learned by this method.  It was the brainstorm of a man, Suzuki, who was a teacher, musician, and maker of musical instruments.  Suzuki’s brainstorm came from two revelations he had that changed his life and his approach to the teaching of music.


The first revelation came from the world of bird breeding. Suzuki was visiting a building that served as a giant incubator for thousands of Japanese songbirds known as larks.  The breeders of these larks take thousands of eggs and incubate them in huge, warm, silent halls that act as a gigantic nest.  As the tiny songbirds break through the shells of their eggs, there is only one sound that they hear.  It is the sound of another lark, a very special adult lark, a bird that is chosen because of its singing ability: the Master Singer.

Suzuki noticed to his amazement that every chick that hatched automatically began to copy the Master Singer lark.  What he found even more amazing was that, while the chicks started out copying the Master’s song, after a few days, each chick began to develop its own variations on the original song.


Suzuki found this astounding.  He thought, “If a bird’s tiny, tiny brain can learn so perfectly, then surely the human brain, with its vastly superior abilities, should be able to do the same and better!”  This line of reasoning led Suzuki to his next revelation: every Japanese child learns to speak Japanese!  Suzuki’s friends were not impressed by this revelation.  They assured him that they already knew that every Japanese child learned to speak Japanese.  But Suzuki exclaimed, “they really do, and it’s amazing!”


Tony Buzan writes, “Suzuki was correct.  Like Isaac Newton before him, he had discovered something so obvious that no one could see it.  Any baby, born in any country in the world, automatically learns the language of that country, within two years.  He or she learns it perfectly.  This means that every normal baby’s brain has the potential to learn millions of languages.”


It really is amazing.  Human beings, given the proper environment, can acquire a tremendous amount of information in a short time.  We can learn hundreds of skills in a short time.  You and I came into this world with enormous mental and physical potential.  We also have, from our birth, enormous spiritual potential.  And Jesus gives us even more potential.  As John tells us, “To all who receive [Jesus], who believe in his name, he [gives even more spiritual potential], the power to become [the people God created them to be.]”


Each of us has that power to become. Jesus came into the world to give us that power.  Jesus didn’t come into the world so that we could improve our I.Q.  Jesus didn’t come into the world so that we could run the 440 in record time.  Jesus came to give us the power to become the people God intended us to be.  What does that mean?  It means that you and I have the power to be like Jesus.  You and I have a power within our hearts and souls, for joy, a power for hope, a power for peace, and a power for love.

When we realize we have that power, that realization changes us.  We no longer have to live lives filled with fear, or anger, or resentment, or guilt.  Thanks to Jesus, we can become new people, God’s people.  This is an amazing realization. Sometimes this realization comes to people in a dramatic burst of insight.  Sometimes it comes gradually, over time.


But whether it comes slowly or fast, the reality is that you and I can be more than we are.  And that reality doesn’t depend on our background; it doesn’t depend on any physical or mental limitations we might have.  And it doesn’t depend on our age.  Many older people find themselves slowing down physically, and sometimes mentally.  But we don’t have to slow down in our power to live, like Jesus, with joy, and hope, and peace, and love.  This is a gift that never fades.  This is a gift that never fails.


And it is a gift.  This power is not something we earn. This power is a gift from a God who loves us more than we can possibly imagine.  It is a gift that empowers us to grow into the fullness of the people God created us to be.  It’s our gift: not to earn, but to receive.


Friends, I hope you begin this New Year with the conviction that you have that power to become: not because of anything you’ve done, but because of what Jesus has done on your behalf.  You have enormous potential.  Because of Jesus, you have the power to live fully into the person God created you to be.












Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Epiphany Sunday