Matthew: 2: 1-12
Happy New Year! The New Year is a time of festivities, family and friends coming together to ring in the New Year. The beginning of the New Year is also a time of introspection, reflecting upon where we’ve come during the past year and planning goals for the new year. Although 43% of resolutions don’t make it past February, and 9% survives until the end of the year, setting attainable goals, having a vision for one’s life, is important. Time flies by, and before we know it, another year has gone, and for many of us, we have been stuck in a cycle of work, sleep, eating, watching TV. We need to take the time to dig into our hearts, decide on what we want to change or improve or have an idea where we want to be in a year’s time.
The top goals people choose for a new year are often to exercise more, lose weight, get healthier, get more organized, save money or spend less, quit smoking, learn a new skill or hobby, or find a way to live life to the fullest. As Christians, we need to set spiritual goals. How exactly can we grow in faith and draw closer to Jesus? Should we pray more? Read the bible more? Attend a retreat? Come to church more? Serve our neighbor more? Journal or spend time in other uplifting ways? What are other goals you can think of? In order to be successful, we need to choose goals that are attainable, goals we can actually measure, like volunteer at the food pantry once a week, journal daily, say our prayers every day.
Our gospel passage today of the magi’s, or more popularly called wisemen’s, journey to see the Christ Child contains excellent pointers for us to set spiritual goals and guideposts to plan our spiritual growth in 2023. Let’s look at some of the features of the story that give us pointers as we plan to grow over the next 12 months. I invite you to take out the worksheet in your bulletin and follow along.
The magi/wisemen knew the purpose of their journey, to see the baby borne King of the Jews. They were guided on this journey by the Star, rising in the east. If we want to follow in the footsteps of the magi, we too need to make encountering Jesus our priority in 2023. We need to assess where we are now and make improvements. We need to reflect back on our spiritual high points and low points of 2022. How well did we live out gospel values in our life? Be honest: What did your spiritual journey of 2022 look like? What did you do well? Did you deepen a pattern of forgiveness or humility? Learn to be patient or more tolerant? What were the low points? Getting angry too easily? Gossiping too much? Expressing too much pride? The more specific you can be with yourself the better.
So today, as we move forward, Let’s look at the magi/wisemen story for guidance. What stars are God placing on your horizon to move you forward? How is God working in your life? What persons through whom is God speaking to you? What other incidents have happened that God is using to reach you? It could be anything from a song you heard, a health scare, to a comment someone made to you. Did you have a dream, or an encounter with someone or something that is speaking to you? Identify the stars that are calling you forward and name them. Write them down.
Let’s move on. The second step to clarify your 2023 spiritual journey is to identify the Herods in your life. Who or what is blocking your way? What’s fears or faults are trying to distract you from obtaining your goal of being with Jesus? What people or situations drag you down, bring out the worst in you, make you selfish instead of outward centered? We all encounter Herods. Evil is always working, trying to derail our efforts. What is important is that we name it. We give it to Jesus. The magi chose not to engage Herod. After they found Jesus, they returned home by another path. We need to be able to know when we are tempted to stray and pray for the strength to maintain our focus on Jesus. We need to learn to avoid Herod whenever we can. Name your Herod. Ask the Holy Spirit to point it out to you. It can be a personal trait or an actual person or situation we find ourselves in.
Finally, third step the magi/wisemen led us to in 2023 is to name the gifts that we bring. We are called to dedicate our gifts to Jesus, so he can bless them and use them for the benefit of the good news. What are your gifts? Can you name some of them now? The next thing to ask is how do you use these gifts on behalf of the Lord? If you sing, do you use your voice to lead others in singing? If you are a listening person, do you extend yourself to a lonely person, a shut in, or someone who is ill? If you have been blessed with finances or resources, do you place them at the disposal of God? We are all abundantly gifted, sometimes in ways we don’t even see. Another important step we might do is name the gifts we see in each other. During this upcoming week, I invite you to tell three people what gifts you see in them. Another good step is to ask them to name the gifts they see in you.
As you name your gifts, I invite you to pay homage to Jesus by dedicating your gifts to him. Place your gifts in his hands. Let him direct you to best use your gifts on behalf of the gospel.
So, our passage tells to do at least three things to mark our journey to Jesus in 2023:
1. Name the stars in your lives that lead you to Jesus.
2. Name the Herods operating in your life that block your way to Jesus.
3. Name the gifts God has given you and dedicate them to the Lord, placing them at the disposal of the good news.
Please take a minute to jot down anything more that comes to your mind.
Let us pray: Precious Lord, today we chose to dedicate 2023 as a year we come to you. Help us to find you each day, throughout the year, so we can pay you homage. Place stars on our path that guide us to you, help us to see them and follow them. Help us identify the Herods in our midst that would seek to snare us away from you. Finally help us to name the gifts you have blessed us with. We dedicate these gifts to you for your use, for the uplifting and salvation of all you place in our lives. Make 2023 a banner year a year in which we draw even closer to you, to each other, and may your star shine bright in our lives, and may our lives in turn be a way to you that others may follow to know you and serve you. This we ask in your holy name, Amen.