“Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother…” Mat 2:14 (MSG)
We begin the New Year! It is almost unbelievable that another year is gone. For many of us it is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the new possibilities that the new year brings. However, for others it is a difficult time of wondering and wandering. Last Sunday we reflected on Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing from one place to another. Joseph's glad obedience and Mary’s bold willingness to “let it be” had taken them to places that they did not know and perhaps they might never have wanted to be. Yet the story tell us that they endured the journey, and perhaps they were able to see the array of new possibilities that God had laid out in front of them, not only for themselves but for the entire creation.
The short story in Matthew 2:12-23 is a wonderful example of what obedience is about. I continue to wonder what was in Joseph's and Mary’s hearts and minds. What were they wondering about? What must they let go in order to follow the directions of God’s messenger? Their faithful obedience makes me wonder about us as individuals and as a congregation. What message of God has awakened us, moved us to get up, propels us to respond in unnatural ways?
The story makes me recall the days when I was learning to ride my bicycle. I remember that many parents gave the instructions, but it was up to me to be willing to see the possibilities in front of me. They held me and ran by my side until I was able to remain balanced and then they released me. I had to trust. Then I saw them running by me, passing me, and waiting for me as I pedaled nervously looking forward where they waited for me to help me to stop and stay up. In some way I think that is what the story in Matthew reminds us. We are given instructions to get up from our fear, complacency, and desire to feel that we are in control. We are called to get up and go away from the desire to remain in the past permanently, to see the past as the reason and assurance to move forward and to enjoy the new adventure of obedience. Joseph responded in glad obedience to embrace the risk that comes along with following Jesus even at times when he wants us to follow him to places we are not familiar with. But not as an impulsive response. In fact, Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents (Mt 10:16). Joseph decided not to stay safe but to join God’s mission.
As we come to the end of the Christmas season, we remember that the Christmas message/story is a reminder that the good news is spread by human beings. The message is entrusted to us. Even when the external circumstances surrounding us today cause us to feel that everyday we need to go through surviving, God calls us to live fully. We ask God to give us healing and wholeness so that we can live fully every day rather than survive each day. We get up and go because we are called to live, not to survive. We are called to strive for the new reality and order of God’s reign. We aspire to reflect God’s love by obeying out of love for God who has loved us first. And we ride our bikes confident that in this journey, the Lord is behind, besides, and ahead of us Nothing can stop God’s reign! We are called to embrace God’s new order fearlessly. Do not be afraid!
Speaking of the new and exciting chapters in life for this year. I want to share with you that I will be in ChiangRai, Thailand from January 7 thru January 18. The purpose of the trip is to attend the Asian Lutheran International Conference (ALIC) organized by the Association of Asian and Pacific Islander Ministries of the ELCA (AAPI). As a missionary it seems that the Spirit is constantly telling me to get up, to go and to let God make things new in me and my life. Please contact Pr. Jenna if you have any pastoral need, or call the office. I will certainly miss being with you, but I always say: we are church everyday, no matter where we are because we are the scattered church through whom the Christmas message is shared with all people everywhere! May you, your families, and loved ones have a blessed New Year. May you all find the strength, joy, and comfort to endure this new chapter of the story of love that God continues to write in and through your lives.
Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo