A new year and new resolutions! Renewal and new life are at the heart of our Christian story, promised at our baptism. But can we really change? Time and time again, new resolutions turn into good intentions and before long we find ourselves where we were before, deeply mired in the ruts of an old familiar way.
A spiritual director of mine many years ago said that when, despite our best efforts, we repeatedly find ourselves in the same emotional or relational place, we should really pay attention. That moment of, “How did I get here again!” might just be our life trying to tell us something.
The wise men set out on a new journey. Maybe it all began with new resolutions for them too. Who knows? They encountered two kings: one of political and military might while the other was of just and loving hope. If they had chosen to return to Herod they would have likely found themselves back in the familiar warmth of the secure and controlling courts of the powerful. Instead, they took a different, riskier path that ultimately had tragic consequences for many Bethlehem families, and resulted in Mary, Joseph and the baby becoming refugees. Could this be another example of those ugly moments when tragedy, adversity, and suffering become unwitting instruments of change?
This year, will we choose the road of comfort and pleasure, a place where our ego and sense of security and self-sufficiency will flourish? Or will we find ourselves in a new place where we can look back on the journey and realize the freedom and peace we have gained? But be careful, when the terrain is new we sometimes fail to see its seductive familiarity rounding us back in a slow curve toward where we were.
What is at the heart of your New Year’s resolution? What do you really want to change? What do you really want to become? Where is God in the midst of this change and yearning? Who or what will help you notice when the terrain becomes familiar? Who or what will guide you along a new, less familiar way?
God’s love yearns for us to move closer.
MATTHEW 2:1–12 1In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.