Happy New Year!
I bet you have made some resolutions, and so have I. It’s good to start afresh and set some goals. Christmas comes and takes our breath away with the Word made flesh, that dwelt among us.
On New Year’s Day, I was thinking of sharing with you some resolution-musings, and especially the thought that it’s so fitting that on the eighth day celebrating the Nativity, the new year begins with a feast of many things wrapped up into one, called The Holy Mother of God — ending a week of high holy days, culminating in the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple as the fulfillment of the yearning of Israel. His mother, the sweet Jewish girl, hears the affirmation of wise old Simeon and Anna in words of joy and sorrow.
The resolutions, then, pour out, and it makes sense. We still try to give them form: To be good, to repent of sin, to strive with a right good will, to love more, to be one with Him.
I didn’t make it here last week to share these ramblings, but I thought them: How really, it’s not going to be possible to come up with a good formula that fits everyone at all times, try though we may. Then I was refreshed by the truth that it’s not a formula or slogan for our vision that we’ve been given, but a Name — the Name, Jesus, that was given to Him on that day at His circumcision (but right from the beginning, of course).
It worked out though (my tardiness), because today is the day (well, yesterday according to the Church calendar, today according to the calendar of dates) that His name, Jesus, was made known to the gentiles on the Epiphany. Those studious men of old didn’t consult philosophers for a perfectly worded summation of faith; they followed a star to a stable, to find a Child with a Name.
The Nativity. The Presentation to the Jews. The Epiphany for the Gentiles.
Bringing us up to… ourselves. How to meet this Child ourselves? How to find this knowledge of a Person? Where? If this is what you are struggling with — knowing Him by name, I have a little thought for you.
This is not for you experts out there! It’s for those of us who are used to reading non-holy things and need to figure out how to read the Bible, because we didn’t grow up with it.
And maybe this is already one of your resolutions: to study Scripture, or at least give Scripture its due by knowing something about it — but (like me for years and years) you have trouble sticking to a regimen of opening the Bible from the beginning and working through it to the end.
But — What if you started instead with something — anything — that you already know about Jesus, and went from there? For instance, you probably have floating in your consciousness somewhere the Twenty-third Psalm — The Lord is my Shepherd. (I do love this one in the King James Version — use this one for some good notes.) You may have read this parable to your children in their Bible Story books.
Try opening your Bible (and be sure you have a good translation) and simply reading about the Good Shepherd, John 10: 14-15. Yes, start in the middle, with two lines. Read out loud to your children if you like! Read slowly and don’t look up to make it more dramatic or anything.*
Read this same parable several times. Let yourself wonder about it. Take your time. Let yourself hear Jesus say these words: I am the Good Shepherd. Let yourself be with Him while He says these words. Go back to the Psalm.
Then read John 10: 14-17, then John 10: 1-18. Then read the bit that comes before, and maybe the bit that comes after.
Next time, maybe read the parable of the Prodigal Son. Do it the same way. Maybe ask some questions as they occur to you: I wonder who these different characters in my life are? I wonder who I am in this story? I wonder which one of these characters is Jesus? Then read the chapter that comes before. Next time, read it again and read the next chapter as well.
Maybe (like me, at first) all you really know is the Nativity in that Christmas carol kind of way (and it’s not a bad start!). Start there (Luke, Chapters 1 and 2 — and that works out if you like starting at the beginning of things!) but just dwell on it for a while without rushing on. Really let yourself ask questions about every sentence. Why shepherds? Who is Joseph? Who are these angels? I wonder what this star is (Matthew Chapter 2)? What is Herod’s trouble? Who is Elizabeth? Why is the response of Zachariah so different from that of Mary? Who is Mary? Who am I?
Don’t hurry yourself and don’t feel any pressure to know any of it in a linear way. Soon, a Scripture reading program that works (I like this one) for you will turn up and you’ll be on your way. Remember: there’s knowing about Scripture and there’s knowing Jesus in Scripture, and they don’t always overlap, although of course the goal is that they will, eventually!
As always, keep it simple and practical — that’s the LMLD way!