The Land of Beginning Again
January 06, 2002
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph
in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and
flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about
to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took
the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and
remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what
had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt
I have called my son."
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,
he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and
around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to
the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled
what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: "A
voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel
weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they
are no more."
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in
a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and
his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking
the child's life are dead."
Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went
to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling
over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.
And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of
Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so
that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean." (Matthew 2:13?23)
Joseph took the young child and his mother by night and departed
into Egypt. (Matthew 2:14)
What a wonderful dream: "The Land of Beginning Again."
Can you picture it? Here is my picture: A land of sunny
skies with occasional white fleecy clouds. Striking but brief thunder
showers expressing the power of nature and nourishing the
ground. High snow-capped mountains. Emerald or azure lakes.
Turbulent mountain streams with majestic waterfalls. Quiet rivers
with jumping fish. Woodlands with towering trees forming cathedral
arches, and wind whispering high in their branches.
It is a picture that symbolizes perfection. An image that speaks
of clear decisions, lofty ideals, life full of determination and conviction.
Life at peace with ourselves, our God, and our fellow people.
Life that has been rid of error, mistakes, selfishness, greed,
and thoughtlessness. In a land where we would always be right
and never be wrong there would be no turning back?no need to
turn back; no regrets, no feelings of guilt or shame. Confidence
would walk with us each step of the way, and uncertainty would
be forever banished; for all decisions and actions would be right.
To enter such a "Land of Beginning Again" would mean that
all past mistakes, errors, and misdeeds would be forever wiped
out. We would begin again in the land of fantasy, devoid of error
or wrong, such as we have just described: a "Land of Beginning
Again." That is, of course, exactly what it is: fantasy. Fantasy is
neither good nor bad. What we do with determines its value.
We have now left behind the "magic world" of Christmas. Its
memories, its poignant moments, its expressions of love will linger
with us. Shortly, the holiday season will be behind us and we shall
be gripped in the routines of business, homemaking, school, and
busy rounds of committees and diversions. We will be ready to
test the inspiration of the moments we have recently experienced.
There were those same inspiring moments for Mary and
Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men. Something had happened
that would change their lives, and the lives of millions of
people. But the shepherds returned to their flocks. The wise men
returned to their homes and their searching.
The holy family, too, returned to the daily tasks of personal
maintenance. And they faced the stark realities of the world with a
rude shock. Warned in a dream that Herod sought to kill the
child, they departed by night for Egypt. There Jesus spent his first
years in a land noted for its worldliness, where Israel had toiled
as slaves. Away from his home and people. Away from a land that
was the center of godly prophecy. Jesus and his family had to leave
behind the glorious moments of his birth; the appointed land in
which he was to teach, heal, and fulfill his purpose in coming.
They had to "begin again" with the down-to-earth facts of life.
As each new year begins, we usually indulge in some fantasies.
We may write them down as resolutions, trying to capture them
in reality and thus challenge ourselves to abide by them. We may
think about them, usually resolving to work toward certain changes
in our life patterns.
This is the time of beginning again. It is a land of fantasy in
which, for a while, we dwell. When through fantasy we gain the
inspiration to work toward reordering certain aspects of our lives,
it is good. But let us be aware that resolutions are only as good or
effective as we ourselves are willing to make them. Writing them
down gives them no more strength than our inner resolve.
The questions we must ask are: Do we really want to change?
Do we really desire to be different? What is the real reason for us
to change? Perhaps we have come to feel that there is a bit of magic
about New Year's day. Make the resolve and we will change. But
our unfulfilled resolutions tell us this is not true. It is as much a
fantasy as is the possibility of "A Land of Beginning Again."
The holy family, and Jesus himself, found that they had to live
with the world of reality, a world cruel, uncaring, and earthly in most of its ways. A world inhabited by people who do err, do
make mistakes, do disregard others for their own gain.
And the reality for us is that we must live in a world of reality.
We must live with our mistakes. We must live with the fact that
we will make more mistakes. We must accept that we can learn
from our mistakes and failures?and that this is their greatest value.
We each are what we are today both because of our successes
and because of our failures. It cannot be otherwise.
The important question is: What do I do with myself now, as I
am? It is precisely at this point that the Lord picks us up and leads
us by the hand. Not when we are better. Not when the past has
changed. Not when we show we can be better. Not when resolutions
are fulfilled . . . but now!
We never go back! There is no land of beginning again?
except that each moment is fresh and new, and we live in that
moment. The process of change takes place now. This very
moment. And it goes on all our lives, every moment of our lives.
It is valid and useful to live for a while in the fantasy land of
beginning again. Our lives are enriched by what our imaginations
enable us to dream about. A special reminder of our need to
dream of our best in hope and life and faith--which every new
year provides--offers an impetus to rethink our way of life.
But let there be no regrets, no feelings of guilt, no pining over
wasted hours or years. Now is the time to live! Now is the time to
act! For this moment is always the Land of Beginning Again.
Lord Jesus, we have celebrated your new birth among us. Show us
that your birth takes place in us every day, even every moment, as
we look to you in thought and prayer, and open ourselves up to
your birth and your growing presence among us right now! Amen.
Rev. David Johnson