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The story after Christmas Eve

December 29, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Matthew 2:1-6

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:
6 You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
        by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
            because from you will come one who governs,
            who will shepherd my people Israel” [Micah 5:2, 2 Samuel 5:2].

Daily Reflection & Prayer

We read Matthew 2 as part of the Christmas story, but in fact its events didn’t happen on the night of Jesus’ birth. The Greek word magoi, which Matthew used, usually identified students of the stars. These notable visitors, most likely from modern Iran, arrived an unspecified amount of time “after Jesus was born in Bethlehem.” Israel was just a minor Roman province. No one would have expected non-Hebrew scholars to travel far to see, much less to worship, even a “king of the Jews.”

  • Roman historians Suetonius and Tacitus wrote that when Jesus was born, an ancient prophecy led many to believe a world ruler would rise in Judea. Both Romans said the prophecy must have meant Emperor Vespasian. The Romans missed the true king, as did the priests and legal experts who rattled off Micah’s prophecy about Bethlehem. The eastern visitors didn’t. In what ways can you keep your mind and heart open, so as not to miss where God is at work?
  • In Ezekiel 34:1-16, as well as in Micah 5:4, God promised that he would shepherd his people. Jesus, grown up, said he was the promised “good shepherd,” offering those who follow him “life to the fullest” (John 10:1-15). In what ways do ads for everything from cars to computers, alcoholic beverages to hair-care products, promise a better life? How easy or hard do you find it to trust that Jesus truly offers you the fullest, most satisfying life in your everyday “real world”?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, keep my eyes and my heart open to signs that you are at work in and around my life. Thank you for being the shepherd who guides me to life to the fullest. Amen.

GPS Insights

Lauren Cook

Lauren Cook

Lauren Cook is the Entry Points Program Director at Resurrection, a self-proclaimed foodie, a bookworm, and is always planning her next trip. She has the sweetest (and sassiest) daughter, Carolina Rae, a rockstar husband, Austin, and a cutie pup named Thunder. She loves connecting with others so let her know the best place you've ever eaten, best book you've ever read, or best place you've ever been!

Ahh, here we are again. The precipice of a brand-new year. For some of us, we are feeling anticipatory and excited for what feels like a fresh start. We have our word of the year, our list of resolutions, and/or our intentions set and ready to go. For some of us, we are already exhausted by the new year, and it hasn’t even arrived yet. In fact, we are nowhere close to being done with THIS year, let alone doing any reflection or resting from 2023. I think I’m somewhere in the middle.

Historically, I love January 1st. I have always been of the fresh start, positive vibe breed. Somewhere in the past two years though, I lost a bit of that. It seemed to set in that the hard things just do not disappear with the turning of the calendar. The personal struggles are just as challenging, the loss and grief still exists, the workload is still there (and maybe even got larger), and the people who I’m challenged by still challenge me. Will a resolution to run a little farther, eat a little better, or be a little nicer change any of that? It definitely didn’t feel like it.

All these things are true, and yet, I got lost in that. I think sometimes we all do. We get lost in the power of the hard and forgot about the power of God.

Today, I sit here in the reality of the life I actually have, acknowledging and wondering. I ponder 2023 and all that existed in these 12 months. I also ponder the incredible places God was at work, as well as all the tiny places He was at work that I can only see now, looking back. I reconcile these things with what it looks like around me today. It is in this space that I choose my focus for 2024: spacious.

I want to hold space for it all. The easy, the hard, the good, the bad, the valleys, the mountaintops, the people I love and the people I am learning to love and the people I don’t even know to love yet, the growth, the learning, the feelings, and most importantly: for the shepherd who will guide me to fill all that space with more than I can even imagine right now. As John 10:1-15 reminds us, Jesus offers us life to the absolute fullest, beyond any worldly resolution.

As you finish this year and walk into the next, I pray that you would also hold space for you and all that you accomplished and all that you did, as well as the things you left undone. I pray that you would open your heart to be filled with the kind of love, joy, wonder, hope, and peace that God gave us on Christmas to then carry forward for all our days to come, even in 2024. I pray that you would have life to the fullest this new year.

Sending you joy always,
Lauren

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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