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“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

It’s that time of the season when many of us subscribe to the old adage, “Out with the old, in with the new.”  For many, it’s a chance to have an imaginary clean slate. I don’t know about you, but for the most part – I like to be able to visualize things coming to a conclusion. At work, I am pleased when a project has a successful ending. At home, I get a sense of satisfaction when I am able to cross items off of my ‘to-do list.’ Whenever I am watching a really good episode of one of my favorite TV programs, I resent it when the program is coming to an end and the words “to be continued” flash on the screen. Of course, that’s how the producers get you hooked so you keep watching.  After all, the “Star Wars” franchise didn’t become a mega-billion-dollar operation overnight. But with its sequels and prequels since its debut in 1977 – the ‘force’ has indeed had a successful run for a very long time.

In life, we do find that there are some things worth holding onto. I once heard a story about a fire that occurred a number of years ago in the Black Forest of Colorado. Upon returning to a leveled home following the fire, only the brick fireplace appeared to have survived. As the owner began to look through the charred rubble, he started to search for a very small ceramic figurine. It was a statuette of the baby Jesus which had been made years before by his wife. Of all the things he had lost, this would be the treasure he would hope to recover. It was an established family tradition that his wife would hide the Jesus figure, with other family festivities not commencing until it was found. He paused and asked the question, “Is the baby Jesus still here?” As he continued the search in the area of what would have been the garage of their home, he located some burned remnants of a nativity scene. It was there that he found the baby Jesus figurine, undamaged by the fire. The owner had described the state of his property as bleak, but the small statue served as a new symbol of hope for him and his family.

When we think about the scene of the original nativity – at first look, it appears to be a rather tranquil one. The kneeling shepherds, the lowing cattle, and the amazement of the birth of an innocent child now lying in the manger collectively represent the peaceful celebration of the newborn king. Following a visit from the wise men, however, there would be no peace for the family of Jesus. “After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. ‘Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matthew 2:13). Only when it was safe again did the family go back home to Nazareth. Once again, Joseph had a dream in which he was told, “Get up!” the angel said. ‘Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead’” (Matthew 2:20). The stories around the birth of Jesus look not only to how he entered the world but to his whole life: the calling of disciples, what He taught, the miracles He performed, His death, His Resurrection, and how we as His modern-day disciples will respond to these events today.

What gives meaning to Christmas isn’t simply God taking on human flesh and being born as a baby. Fortunately for us – the narrative continued with Christmas as just the prelude. Good Friday and Easter become the pivotal point of His story. In explaining Christ’s life here on earth to his student Timothy, the Apostle Paul said, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). Our story will conclude as we are called to enter our Eternal Home, or when He returns. God’s Word says – “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). In a short time, we begin a new year. The days after Christmas give us the chance to think about how our story will be reflected along with His.  It’s not an end but just a new beginning of His work to be continued through us here on earth.

REFLECTION: How will you live out your faith story in the days ahead? Are there changes you might consider? What are the ways you might view the new year as a continuation of your journey with Christ?


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