“Good, Better, Best”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
I was thinking a bit about how the world thinks come the end of each calendar year. And I think “good, better, best” is an apt description.
First, the world focuses on good . . . as in: Have you been good this year, so that Santa will bring you lots of presents? And most people would answer that question yes. Maybe because in our eyes we’ve done more good than bad, or perhaps because we’re usually a bit more generous with ourselves than with others, or maybe because many have lost the ability to name sin as sin, and if sin is no longer sin, then, why yes, I’ve been pretty good this year.
But as good as we may or may not have been, the focus of the world then pretty universally turns to better right after Christmas. Once we’re good enough to get our gifts, then the thinking becomes: I have to get better next year. And so New Year resolutions are made. Things we want or need to change in our lives to be better. The good we judged ourselves to be before Christmas apparently isn’t good enough after Christmas.
Which leaves best. But best usually isn’t very good at all. For the best we can usually do is keep some of our resolutions for a short time before they fall to the wayside. Bad habits are hard to break, after all. And come February, if you ask folks if they’ve been good this year so far, the answer would probably be very different from the one given in December. And so best is an ideal that no one ever attains.
But the end of the calendar year for the world is the beginning of the year for the Church, which, as usual, does things a bit differently from the world. And for us, it’s not a matter of “good, better, best,” as if we can somehow improve ourselves and make ourselves better in the sight of God. Rather, good is what we aren’t and what we receive from God. And when God gives, there is no “good, better, best” - He has only one category. His good is the best, and there’s nothing better than that.
For as we heard tonight: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? We heard also how God gave us and places upon us His name, how we are baptized into Christ, and how Jesus was circumcised for us. Gifts. Gift upon gift. And no better gifts could there be than the Son of God Himself and His salvation given to us. Our Father gives us His best to make us good again in the forgiveness of our sins. Good as in what creation was in the beginning, before the Fall into sin. Good as in Good Friday good, Good Shepherd good, Good Samaritan good. Good as in under the care of our good and gracious God.
So on this night when people look forward to a new year and new possibilities, and look inward at themselves and how they can get better, the Church doesn’t look inward, but outward, as she always does. Looking to Christ and seeing the good that God has done for us and has for us. And that’s better. For the possibilities are His, the year is His, and you are His. And if Christ returns this coming year, we will rejoice and give Him thanks for all His goodness to us. But if not, then we will live in another year of grace, our Lord working His good for us, in us, and through us.
And to know that you are under the care of your Saviour, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.