Message Supplement (December 29)

Christmas is over and we’ve just finished celebrating Jesus’ birth. Now, rather than dwelling upon the idyllic imagery of the nativity, we are invited to move forward as we realize that the baby Jesus didn’t stay long in that manger. An angel warned Mary and Joseph to take his family into Egypt while Herod, the evil king of Israel, plotted Jesus’ destruction.

Herod’s paranoia got the best of him as he ordered the children around Bethlehem killed in his attempt to eradicate Jesus. Such vile brutality is regrettably unsurprising. Rulers past and present often grasp power at any cost, and innocents are murdered in a despot’s ploy for political comfort. The despicable Herod eventually died, and the angel of the Lord told Joseph to bring his family out of Egypt where they had been hiding. Another tyrannical ruler, Archelaus, prompted Joseph to settle in Nazareth of Galilee rather than returning to Judea.

What does the odyssey of Jesus’ escaping and returning mean for us today? Perhaps there is a lesson about the direction of our spiritual journeys. Sometimes, we can be like exiles on an odyssey. Life can buffet us and send us away fearful to strange lands. Like Joseph fleeing with his family to Egypt, we may have to retreat temporarily while we lay low amid a swirl of dangers. The world can prevail upon us in almost every way, intruding into the deep recesses of our souls. Yet, despite the perils, we generate hope as we seek God’s guidance.

Even after returning back to his ancestral lands, Joseph ended up settling in an area different from the one he left. This can also happen to us in that we may not always return to the same place we started. Returning to a different place can be a good thing as new opportunities may arise and we can learn from not only where we’ve been, but also from where we are and where we may yet visit.

Where do you find yourself at this stage of your life? Do you feel forced from one situation and thrust into another? Whatever forces may be at work, God can provide a new home, a place of vital spiritual life as he did for Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Indeed, the place we return to, even if it’s not where we originally wanted to go, can be a blessing for reasons not immediately obvious. We may need to leave something familiar before we awaken to the divine plan for our lives.

As you look toward the New Year, you can ask God to use your experiences in 2013 as a step forward. You may have had your share of challenges and crises during your life odyssey. Perhaps you’ve endured a health problem that set you back or you may face challenges from family, friends or your work. There’s no shortage of things that can set us back and make us feel as if we’re on the run.

We can gain comfort knowing that neither disappointments nor disasters will be the final word. We can partner with God, strive for light and life, and emerge stronger despite dire circumstances. No matter what’s facing us from the past, present, or future, God can lead us to a place of new vistas and opportunities. Let us therefore pray together so that 2014 will make us aware of new dimensions of God’s love and truth.

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