“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)

We have had a different holiday season from what we have had in the past. We used to decorate for Christmas, gather together with family members and friends, exchange gifts with one another, and have fun celebrating family traditions. But, mainly, we aren’t allowed to gather with family members at this time because of the COVID 19 pandemic. Instead, we might see and talk with family members and friends via computer or smartphone. Some of you stayed alone. Some of you decorated your house as you used to do and still gathered together, but some couldn’t. These circumstances make some of us depressed because we don’t know how long it could go on like this. However, we should not feel down any longer. We should end all negative things and mindsets with the end of the year 2020. We have new beginnings to look forward to I 2021.

Sadly the COVID 19 Pandemic has not yet ended. It must be a long journey wearingmasks and keeping social distancing even though we heard the good news of the upcoming vaccine. The Pandemic changed many things in our daily life. We miss the everyday life, which we did not feel grateful for because it was too normal such as fellowship with parishioners, hanging out with friends, enjoying a concert in person, and sharing meals with neighbors. We are sometimes confused about what normal life is. Somehow, home schools, home churches, and working from home might become the new normal in our daily lives. We have the new words of vacation such as staycation and work-cation. We cannot distinguish between vacation and work. It was as if we would rest in the restlessness. Perhaps, it was as if we hope in hopelessness and seek for the possibility in the impossibility.

Finally, we found new hope: a new normal life such as online services and meetings, and outdoor services, using new technologies. We had many thankful things, even in the difficulties in 2020. We could trust that God still works for us and the world. We could open our eyes and our minds wider to see a new era emerging. We could see what is happening in the world globally. Perhaps, much later, we descendants may study history about the two periods before COVID 19 and after COVID 19.

There were pioneers who had many risks and challenges in our history. One of the pioneers is Jesus Christ. In the 1st century, Jesus ministered, many people thought that the normal worship was to offer sacrifices to God such as lambs, goats, an

d doves in the Temple of Jerusalem. The place and sacrifices really were burdened to poor people. They should prepare taxes for the Temple, good quality sacrifices for offerings, and expenses for traveling to Jerusalem in order to worship God.

Moreover, corrupt leaders exploited people with several taxes. Finally, Jesus cleaned up the Temple first after the entry of Jerusalem. “Jesus found men in the Temple selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others sitting at table exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle: he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:14-16). It symbolized that released people from their burden, and Jesus will be the last offering of the sacrifice for all people’s sins. No more exploited people, and no more burdened for people to worship God. However, no one under-stood Jesus’ act. Instead, the leaders regarded that Jesus went against the leaders and God.

Jesus proclaimed a new normal age that to love your neighbor is to love God and that human rights are a priority before keeping laws. He said to people who asked why they did not keep laws. “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wine-skins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17). He sounded like to break the laws of God, but he said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). It sounded strange because he seemed not to keep the law. No one could understand what he talked about at that time.

But, he became a good friend of the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, the least, and the powerless. We know that he opened a new era with the Good News. No other name to save us through. Only Jesus Christ is our Savior. Only Jesus’ love is the remedy to reconcile humanity and the whole world. Jesus wanted people to love one another regardless of any boundaries as he loved people. Now, we may need to find a new fresh wineskin for a new normal age. It may be a new technology. However, we should remember, Jesus’ love never fails or changes. There-fore, our new wine must be “love” as Jesus loves us.
Blessings, and Happy New Year!