Now what?

Thursday, January 14, 2016 - Updated: 6:00 am

It’s been three weeks since we celebrated the feast of Christmas. It’s been two weeks since we celebrated New Year’s Day.

I suspect by this time most Christmas trees have been taken down. The decorations have been packed away for next year. All the greeting cards have been read. Many of the gifts have been returned or re-gifted. And our memory banks have been enriched.

Now what? Now what of it all? Now what’s next?

The question on my mind, and one that I pose to each of you is: What was your celebration of Christmas all about?

Was it a time to be caught up in the “romance” of the season? Was it a matter of being wrapped up in the nostalgia of past Christmases? Was it tinged with memories of loved ones no longer here? Was it a time that you found yourself begrudgingly forced to live?

Now what? Now what of it all? Now what’s next?

Something had

to change

It seems to me that if we are to be serious about being disciples of the Lord Jesus, then Christmas 2015 must have some effect on us, on our lives, on how we want to live in 2016!

Yet I fear that in the commercialism of our very fast-paced and electronic society, Christmas now three weeks past is liable to be a fading memory of romance, nostalgia, grief or regret!

And if that is the case, then we have missed something essential.

For the record, let’s not forget why Jesus came to earth in the first place. And how he came to our earth. Jesus came to save us. And he came as one of us, in all things but sin! And he came to draw us away from sin and to get us into heaven. And that carries with it a need to become a better person. A need to become more like Jesus.

Whenever you and I think about the main characters of the first Christmas scene — Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi — once they were a part of the birth scene of Jesus, “business as usual” could not be for them “the order of the day.” Something had to change.

Think about Mary. And at her Annunciation. There she was, a very young, beautiful woman minding the business of her own parents’ home, dreaming about her upcoming wedding to Joseph, perhaps planning what china should be in her registry and what silverware she might receive. An angel comes to break through all of her dreams. And without knowing where it would all lead, and how it could, in fact, be possible — once the Lord Jesus was born, Mary came to understand that her life was defined not by her dreams but by God’s.

And think of Joseph. And his Annunciation. Remember that scene in Matthew’s Gospel? There he was, tossing and turning. Trying to get some sleep, trying to escape reality with some sleep. He was struggling with the news that his betrothed was with child. He was not the dad. She was pregnant out of wedlock. According to the law of his day, there was only one option — that his intended must be stoned to death. Yet, in the midst of it all, God’s angel came to him, too. And as it was for Mary, so also for Joseph. He came to understand that his life would be defined not by his fears but by God’s dreams. And in the end, everything that Joseph feared was changed by God’s plan.

And think about those shepherds. There they were. That chilly evening. Doing what they knew best. They were there minding their sheep. They were there minding their own business. And the angels came and told them: leave and go to the birthplace of the newborn. They went! And once again, as it was with Mary and Joseph, their lives would change; nothing would ever be the same.

And what about those Magi? Following a star, they were looking for some clues, some confirmation of whom it was that they should find. And what it was that they should find themselves open to. They pursued the star. Against all odds, it led them to the Christ Child. They did not let anything stand in the way of our finding Jesus. And their lives, too, would never be the same.

Once again, it seems to me that if we are going to be serious about who we are as followers of Jesus Christ, Christmas cannot be a memory. It demands of us that we take all of the steps that we need to take to let Jesus change us, as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi were changed. Like them, we need to become more like Christ.

Grow in God’s image

Now what? Now what of it all? Now what’s next?

Well, for starters, and as people who live in a world that very much coaches us: to make quick and rash judgments; to approach others with closed and narrow minds; to abandon an appreciation of the beauty of the sacredness of all life — then Christmas calls us to take a look at the beauty of who we are as created in the image and likeness of God. And then to see everyone else as such.

As you and I reflect on the beautiful characters of the Christmas story — Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi — the dramatic changes that took place in their lives become an invitation for us to do the same and an opportunity for us to imitate them.

Now what? Now what of it all? Now what’s next?

I’m not sure if you have had an opportunity to make any New Year’s resolutions. In this brief time between Christmas and the beginning of the season of Lent, I suggest that we combine both — our New Year’s resolutions and our Lenten discipline — to focus on growing in the image and likeness of the God who created us.

And how that happens depends on how serious we are about becoming more like, acting more like Jesus. And how willing we are to let Jesus make the kinds of changes in us that he made in the lives of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi.

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