“Do as I say, not as I do!” I remember thinking “Well, that’s not very convincing.” How can someone who refuses to follow their own advice have any credibility at all? My mom drove that point home to me as I watched her follow her convictions when it would have been temporarily easier for her to “bend” her convictions to bring her some temporary comfort. She just pressed ahead with what she believed and that lesson has stuck with me my whole life. To this day, my goal is always to press out the implications of my convictions to test whether they are true or not.
What convictions do you hold on to no matter what?
Oh, Happy New Year! (I almost forgot!) And what a perfect time to be confronted with a moment to do an internal inventory of our unchangeable beliefs and convictions. We are thinking of New Year’s resolutions. We are mentally planning for our goals and objectives for the New Year. And we are “celebrating” the fresh, clean, untouched time of the New Year laid before us. This is a good time to stop and evaluate what convictions we will take with us into this new year. I hope and pray you are scheduling periods of time when you do this interior work, because if you don’t do this from time to time, you are going to find yourself in places you never intended. It is the purposeful living of life that produces the best living!
No wonder the Church confronts us today with the revelation that the Incarnate Lord obeys the wisdom He Himself gave His people AND no wonder this same Incarnate Lord, the True Lawgiver, confronts His people with the Law above the laws and traditions of even family relationships.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today: And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days, they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:20-21, 40-52)
Two scenes are given to us to teach us about priorities, faithfulness, and purposeful living.
The first scene is the Lord of glory, enfleshed and made weak by His own will for our sake, is taken for the traditional marking of His flesh as a faithful member of His people. The Lawgiver obeys the Law. Even as a “helpless” baby, the Incarnate Lord is raised in a faithful home. This home, these people are diligent to follow the wisdom of the Law given to Moses. The Incarnate Lord is named. He is circumcised in the flesh so that He will be able to finally provide the “circumcision made without hands” (see Colossians 2:8-12) to each of us to write His Law on our hearts. But the Lord also reveals in this passage His purposeful living in superseding even the “traditions” of family when, in His 12th year, He stays in His “Father’s house.” The Theotokos and St. Joseph were frantic with worry about His whereabouts but He offers them a check on their own convictions when He confronts them with the reality of His purpose. But notice, after inviting them to confront His true purpose, He returns with them to their home and “was obedient to them.” What a perfect picture of both the Lawgiver and His faithfulness AND the radical new vision of that Law that will supercede all previous wisdom given. God in the Flesh invites us to embrace both faithfulness AND the forever changed reality that God has come among us to finally be in us!
Today, as we begin a New Year, stop, even for a moment, and inventory your unchangeable convictions. What are they? Do they include your unwavering faithfulness to a purposeful practice of your faith? Do they include the universe-changing reality that God has become Flesh so that you might become “engoded” that you might become “like” Christ? A whole new year lays before you; choices, convictions, plans, and events. Your convictions will shape everyone of these realities and make you (or “unmake” you) into the person you were created to be. So, Happy New Year and let’s practice being Orthodox on Purpose in 2015!
P.S. This year we are partnering with AncientFaith.com to make these daily devotionals available to you as a daily podcast. So, you can listen to these podcasts every morning Monday through Friday as a way to keep your focus on eternal things! This is just one more tool to help us be Orthodox on Purpose! Go to AncientFaith.com and listen to our daily devotionals!