Setting goals for the New Year – Lessons from the Magi

by Angela Lambert

epiphany

The Manifestation of Christ – God & Man – Savior For All Who Will Receive Him.

January 3rd, 2016; The Epiphany of the Lord

Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Meditation Reflection:

You might be asking yourselves at this point, or at least your kids might like mine, “why do we keep having to go to all of these masses?!” Feast, after feast, after feast. For Christians, and Catholics in particular, Christmas season is not shopping season. It’s a time to reflect, ponder, and grow in our understanding and appreciation of the birth of our savior. A mystery of this grandeur naturally requires several days and weeks to digest and contemplate. Presently, our culture is celebrating the new-year which causes us to pause, reflect on our lives, and set new goals. In the liturgical calendar the new-year begins with Advent but has a similar process. We pause to reflect on our lives, but also to reflect on the great love of God who gave His only Son for our salvation. We contemplate this gift because it ought to change the way we approach our life and inform our goals for the next year.

During Advent we prepare for the coming of Christ. We repent of sins that keep us from Him and open our eyes and ears through prayer and spiritual reflection. On Christmas day we rejoice at the coming of our savior, God incarnate. We reflect on the mystery of God’s transcendence and immanence – that He is both completely other and above all, and at the same time intimately close and present. As Divine, Christ is all-powerful and as human, He comes in the weakest form possible as a vulnerable baby.

The Sunday after Christmas we celebrate the Holy Family. When God created man and woman in His image, He created them as a family. God’s work of restoring His image which had been distorted by sin begins with restoring the family. He enters humanity and spends His first thirty years simply being the son of Mary and Joseph. In this way, God bestows renewed greatness and dignity upon the call to family life.

On January 1st, the feast of Mary the Mother of God, we reflect on the question “who/what is Jesus?” After a few centuries of Christian reflection and worship this question began to emerge along with different answers. Some said He was merely a human, and some said He was only God and merely appeared to be human. After much debate, deliberation, prayer, and investigation into Scripture, the Church declared that Jesus is a Divine Person (the Second Person of the Trinity) with two natures – a divine nature and a human nature. If Jesus wasn’t human He couldn’t have suffered, died, and atoned for our sins. If He wasn’t God, His sacrifice would not have infinite value and therefore would not pay the debt owed to God. In both scenarios, we would not be saved! The mystery of who Jesus is hinges on His relationship to Mary. Mary has the title “Mother of God” because at the incarnation, Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb and received His human nature from her. At the same time, the person who took a human nature at conception was God the Son. Mary is the mother of a son, not a body; and that son, is God.

The next question we need to ask is who did Jesus come to save? On the Feast of the Epiphany we celebrate that the Christ came to save all people universally who seek Him. Epiphany means “the manifestation of the divine.” The angels had announced the manifestation of Christ’s coming to the shepherds and they responded by going to visit the Christ child. God announces to His people who have been looking and waiting for Him for almost two thousand years that He had come.   Moreover, the new star in the sky proclaimed to all creation that the Christ had come and the magi who were looking and searching responded by following the star to the Christ-child as well. They offered Him gifts that recognized who the baby Jesus is – Gold because He is king, Frankincense because He is God, and Myrrh which is a burial ointment that foreshadowed His death.

God reveals Himself to all who will look and listen. He might reveal Christ to you through His People, through an angel, or through Creation. All should lead you to “the child with Mary His mother.” It should lead us all to offer Christ our worship and every gift we can give. He calls us all into communion with Him and His People the Church. Christ came to save us from sin and to restore us to unity as a human family in God. The magi teach by example that seeking the Lord requires openness, effort, perseverance, investigation, and reverence. As we celebrate the coming of Christ this Christmas season it should set the course of our entire year. We must live in response to this gracious encounter with our Lord and Savior.

Consider:

  • Reflect on how you first encountered Christ and any additional times you encountered Him in a deeper way.
    • How did this encounter enrichen your life?
    • How have you responded to this encounter?
  • Reflect on the mystery of Jesus’ divinity and humanity.
    • Consider Christ’s transcendence as God – eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, perfect, Creator of all that exits….
    • Consider Christ’s immanence as man – His vulnerability as an infant and child, His union with our very nature, His lived experience of everything we too experience, His appreciation for the simple things in life such as family and work, friendships, meals together…
  • Reflect on Mary’s motherhood.
    • Consider the faith and courage it required to believe God would work such a wonder in her.
    • Consider the hope and humility it required to trust God to enable her to mother such a son.
    • Consider her pure love for God and Jesus. Her heart must have been nearly bursting every day. A mother’s love is already hard to contain, add the contemplation of the mystery of God’s love to come as man on top and I don’t know how she managed to endure it except to “keep all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
  • The word catholic means “universal.” Take a moment to praise God for extending His saving Truth and Love to all persons world-wide. Consider how you might grow in union with God and with others.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Seek God actively in one way this week.
    • Some ideas: reading Scripture, silent prayer, service toward others, or attending a daily Mass.
  • Investigate God’s revelation.
    • Learn about Scripture and our Faith. Attend a Bible Study, join Faith Formation at your parish, read a book about the Faith or the Catechism, talk to a priest or religion teacher and ask him or her some of your questions.
  • Spend 5-10 minutes in silence reverencing the new-born king. Imagine yourself as one of the magi encountering Jesus held in His mother’s arms.
  • Offer a gift to Christ this week. Make it thoughtful, something you know He would appreciate from you.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015

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