A New Year. I suspect that like me you were pleased to see the back of 2020. It had been a year to forget for so many; a year of extreme stress and for 1.8 million globally a year of tragic bereavement.
We were all probably hoping for a much different and better start to 2021 but in fact it is looking very much like last year. We know that we can expect a repeat performance for at least some months to come. News which distributes fear. Lockdowns. Stay at Home Orders. Disrupted lives. Loneliness for significant numbers. Mental health strains. And, of course, the fearful prospect of seriously ill people with Covid being unable to access the care that they need because Hospital beds are already full. Sounds bad, doesn’t it?
How are we to best prepare ourselves for this New Year? Where might we find wisdom to guide us?
Perhaps the Wise Men are able to help. Yes, I do mean the biblical Wise Men. On January 6th, Twelfth Night, we celebrate the Epiphany, remembering the visit of the Wise Men to the child. When they had seen the star, they understood the times and pursued Jesus the King of Kings. Maybe we too need to understand the times; that is, to see how Covid is multiplying and be sure to always attach that fact together with the good news of vaccination programmes that offer some hope for us all in the future, so as to keep our equilibrium. (Have you noticed how many times the word ‘miracle’ occurred in the news media related to the speed of the vaccinations reaching authorisation? Ten months instead of Ten years?)
When the Wise Men saw Jesus, Matthew (2:11) says that they fell to the ground before him. This was the Holy Spirit at work. Their response to him showed their recognition that he was the King that was promised and for whom they had endured the journey of faith. It also showed their submission to his rule and authority as well.
A good start for us in 2021 is to come before Jesus once more and bow in submission to him for the coming year, knowing that we are not abandoned or helpless because Jesus is still reigning today.
As they recognised the glory of God in human form, they could do nothing but worship him.
It might be common to see mothers worshipping their babies, but it tends not to be the response of men when they first see someone else’s baby! These men were serious. They were living and journeying with serious commitment. So we too need to follow their example. If you are feeling cold in your response to him, pray and ask for fresh revelation, a renewing of your spirit that compels you to bring a thank-offering of praise, adoration and worship to him who came for you; who sought you out and loves you forever.
Thirdly, they brought their gifts to him. The three types of gift mentioned do not, of course, suggest that there were three wise men. We have no idea of their number – but there is room for us to join them. If we have gold (wealth), now would be a particularly good time to remember the poor and give to them as though you were giving to Jesus. It’s probably very unlikely that you have any frankincense lying around for the anointing of any King who happens to be passing by, but you can still anoint Jesus with your praise, thanksgiving and worship. Myrrh was used for the anointing of dead bodies. Our celebration of The Lord supper, Eucharist, might also be simplified so that we can celebrate at home and remember the body and blood of Jesus Christ given for you and for me. The New Covenant. Why not build a simple communion into your weekly pattern?
Although we do not know what the new year will bring, we do know that it is going to be a very bumpy ride for some time to come, so we need to keep re-joining the wise men and be found amongst them, continuously yielding to Jesus, being mature and understanding the signs of the times, trusting him, anointing him and dwelling under his blessing.
What of hope? As the Wise Men followed the star, they were filled with hope that they might see the new-born King. Do we have grounds to look ahead through the coming year and be filled with hope for the future?
The ability to hope is itself a gift from God. It is an internal longing for something that is as yet unseen. No-one longs for the things that have already come to pass. Our emotions, our imaginings, positive thinking, our spirit, can all create a sense of hopefulness. When we were children, hope probably arose very easily and we were often disappointed because we hadn’t yet understood that for hope to be realistic there needed to be some ground that it was based on. Hope and fantasy are not the same thing. You and I have great grounds for hope; firstly, the very fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead gives us hope; the promises of God give us hope; our personal experiences of his previous faithfulness and provision for us, together with the experiences of a whole cloud of witnesses, are grounds for hope.
As we look ahead to the coming year, the emergence of several vaccines gives us ground for hope that life may begin to normalise for us at a future time. We are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel and to a large degree we have grounds for hoping that by the end of the year life will look substantially different to how it looks now. However, it is unlikely that we will all return to life as it was. There will probably be a yet-to-be-revealed new normal. Still, we must stay yielding to our God and trusting in him.
Surely hope is not enough though. We also need faith.
The Wise Men found faith when they saw Jesus. They were responsive to him so that, when they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they agreed.
Having faith is quite different to having hope alone. Faith is a gift that arises within us in response to a revelation we have received from God. It feels far more solid than hope alone. It allows us to say with unusual conviction, in the face of all the lack of evidence to support us, “but God said this”! That is why we need to be constantly going back to our regular pattern of consecutive Bible reading and prayer, the place of revelation where faith is nourished, matured and increased. Then we can march bravely forward with real joy and peace in our hearts in the face of the Covid storm.
So, in summary, let’s be wise and abandon ourselves to the generous and loving, overwhelmingly powerful, reign of God already at work on earth, worshipping him and keeping our eyes on him as the Lord.
- Let’s be wise as we look at events and understand the signs of the times and be sure to submit them to the Lord’s feet.
- Let hope arise within, and stay hopeful, confident that our God reigns.
- Let’s go back to our foundations, regular prayer and Bible reading, so that our faith might increase and stand firm.
‘So now faith, hope and love abide…’1 Cor 13:13
Finally – take courage for the Lord will come again. We don’t know when, but we do know that it will be at the time we least expect. Victory is assured. Jesus is alive!
If we do these things, take these steps, perhaps our names will not only be recorded in Heaven, but also listed amongst the Wise Men of 2021.
At the start of this New Year, I bless you in the name of Jesus that the Lord may cause His face to shine so brightly upon you that every shadow and fear may melt away. I bless you to know with confidence that He is keeping you and that you are the apple of His eye. I bless you in the name of Jesus that the Lord Himself might bless you, keeping you secure and joyful. May the peace of the Lord fill your heart and mind this moment and for always.Roy Godwin
(Num 6:24-26; Deut 32:10/Ps 17:8; Phil 4:7)
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© Roy Godwin 2021